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Library Exhibitions

The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and its Rare Book Collection stage a number of on-site exhibits each year. In some cases we also create an online counterpart in order to enhance and promote our on-site exhibits. These online exhibits continue to exist after the on-site exhibits must be taken down and packed away. Please enjoy some featured highlights from our rich and interdisciplinary collections.

Past Exhibits

Standing on Ceremony: Processions, Pathways, and Plazas

October 7 – December 31, 2014

Exhibit ImageTraces of processions that once wound along roads, filed through cities, and hiked over mountains can be found throughout the Americas. Although these processions have either long ceased or have assumed substantially different forms, the remains of many Pre-Columbian civilizations provide suggestive evidence of their ceremonial importance.

The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century

Autumn 2013

The long eighteenth century saw widespread exploration and a tremendous increase in the traffic in botanical specimens. The goal of many imperial expeditions was to explore the natural resources of colonies and distant lands in search of potentially profitable plants and products. Plants arrived at major cities on board ships, and were grown in botanical gardens that were often state-funded. The plants were studied and cultivated, especially if they were perceived to have economic or medicinal value. The study of botany was facilitated by herbarium specimens and botanical illustrations, as well as by innovations in taxonomy that simplified the description of plants.

Ces pièces immortelles: Early Numismatic Books in the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library

Spring 2013

This exhibition explores the foundations of numismatic study of Roman and Byzantine coins from the 16th to 19th century. Dumbarton Oaks continues to promote the study of Byzantine coins and seals through regular summer seminars. This exhibition is in honor of the 2013 summer seminar's students and instructors.

Margaret Mee

Winter 2013

Hippeastrum sp.The Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection houses a collection of twenty-one paintings by the renowned British botanical artist, Margaret Mee (1909–1988). This exhibit provides Dumbarton Oaks an opportunity to display paintings acquired by Mrs. Bliss that reflect the work of Mee’s early journeys, when she had only just begun to chronicle the flora of the Amazon.



The Ancient Future: Mesoamerican and Andean Timekeeping

October 5 – December 31, 2012

Ancient future

The Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilizations used complex and multiple timekeeping systems for purposes of agriculture, worship, and political leadership. Because little of the material record of the pre-Conquest peoples of the Americas survived, scholars through the ages have had limited primary sources to study to reach a comprehensive understanding of timekeeping in the Americas.

Maria Sibylla Merian

January 2012 – November 2012

Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, plate 29The Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection is a participant in a project, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, to celebrate works by great women artists in Washington, DC museums. The artist that the Research Library Rare Book Collection selected for this project is the naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), and specifically her 1719 publication Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (first published in 1705).

Capturing Warfare: Enemies and Allies in the Pre-Columbian World

September 1, 2011 – December 31, 2011

Warfare in Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica and the AndesWarfare in Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica and the Andes
This exhibit highlights two representations of warfare in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica and the Andes. First, the exhibit includes fineline drawings of images painted on ceramic vessels produced by the Moche, a culture that flourished on the north coast of Peru in the first centuries of the Common Era. Second, the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan tells the story of the conquest of Guatemala by the allied forces of the warriors of Quauhquecholteca and the Spanish.

Before the Blisses

April 15, 2011 – July 31, 2011

Mīkhaīl Petrovīch Botkin (1839–1914), 'Collection M. P. Botkine'Mīkhaīl Petrovīch Botkin (1839–1914), Collection M. P. Botkine
This exhibition examines the ways in which 19th-century collections and illustrated catalogs impacted the study and appreciation of early Christian, Byzantine, and medieval minor arts before Mildred and Robert Bliss began their collection.

Robert & Monnoyer: French Botanical Artists of the Seventeenth Century

Spring 2011

Jean Baptiste Monnoyer (1636–1699), 'Arrangement of Flowers'Jean Baptiste Monnoyer (1636–1699), Arrangement of Flowers
Nicolas Robert (1614–1685) and Jean Baptiste Monnoyer (1636–1699) were the leading proponents of two parallel styles of botanical illustration that developed in France during the second half of the seventeenth century. Nicolas Robert’s work focused on the scientific aspects of the plant. Monnoyer, on the other hand, was one of the earliest practitioners of the decorative tradition in French flower painting.


December 15, 2010 – March 31, 2011

Queen's Binder B, 'The government of the tongue'Queen's Binder B (binder), The government of the tongue
A book’s binding is a particularly satisfying piece of material culture. Like the frame of a painting, a binding can offer up valuable information about provenance and production. This exhibit examines some methods of binding books and some of the broader significance of particular materials and styles.

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