Stephen Zwirn Retires
Stephen Zwirn in the museum’s Byzantine Courtyard, before a case displaying Byzantine jewelry. Joe Mills, 2012.
Stephen Zwirn, Assistant Curator in the Byzantine Collection, retired from Dumbarton Oaks this June. In twenty-six years of curatorial work, Stephen has played an integral role in the development of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum.
On the occasion of his retirement, Stephen recently gave an interview for the Dumbarton Oaks Oral History Project. First introduced to Dumbarton Oaks in the late 1970s as a student from New York University, Stephen’s long and fruitful curatorial tenure has spanned a third of the institution’s history, over a quarter of a century, through four directorships and through two major renovation projects.
The first of these major renovation projects occurred between 1987 and 1989 when the Director, Robert Thompson, launched a construction project that would literally change the shape of the museum. Working with then Curator of the Byzantine Collection, Susan Boyd, Stephen redesigned the galleries and reinstalled the collection, taking advantage of this opportunity to reinterpret the collection and to reimagine its narrative implications. Twenty years later, under the directorship of Edward Keenan, another major construction project gave Stephen a second opportunity to completely reinstall the collection under the guidance of the current Director of the Museum, Gudrun Bühl. Few curators have the opportunity to affect such profound and long-lasting change on the presentation of a museum’s permanent collection, but Stephen has done it no less than twice at Dumbarton Oaks.
Stephen’s plans for his retirement include a wealth of scholarly projects, and Dumbarton Oaks looks forward to his continued contributions to Byzantine Studies.