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Opportunities for Harvard Students

Gardens in the Spring

As a research institute affiliated with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, Dumbarton Oaks cultivates strong ties through support of class visits and scholarly exchanges; faculty sabbaticals; and a variety of academic programs. Three recent initiatives, in particular, have greatly expanded and enhanced opportunities for Harvard students at Dumbarton Oaks. The Tyler Fellowship program, inaugurated in 2010, provides support over two years to advanced GSAS students in fields relevant to the mission and resources of Dumbarton Oaks, with the aim of contributing to the students’ professional development while assisting with dissertation completion. Paid summer internships, expanded over the past few years and available across many different departments within Dumbarton Oaks (from the Library, Archives, and Museum to Publications and the Gardens) enable Harvard graduate and undergraduate students to contribute to institutional projects and gain valuable work experience and skills, while enjoying the Dumbarton Oaks campus and the resources of the nation’s capital. Bliss awards, unveiled in 2012, provide support for Harvard students traveling to Dumbarton Oaks to attend the annual symposia, which are major annual conferences in the three programs of study at Dumbarton Oaks (Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies) as well as occasionally in other areas of scholarship. Through these initiatives and other activities, Dumbarton Oaks contributes to the teaching, research, and professional development of Harvard students and faculty alike.

Resources for Harvard Students

Dumbarton Oaks is a one-of-a-kind institution. We combine multiple different kinds of collections and resources under a single roof. For the better part of a century, we have been a humanities research center that supports the fields of Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape studies. At the same time, we are a museum with significant collections of Byzantine and Mesoamerican art, along with an eclectic collection of other art from around the world. We are also a historic home with a complex of gardens that has been called one of the world’s most beautiful. We have large archives of materials relating to the histories of both the house and the gardens, respectively. On top of this, our Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) store extensive documentation of a number of archaeological excavations throughout the former Byzantine world and the Americas. Our non-circulating Research Library offers large collections for all three of our principal fields, and our Rare Book Collection holds a number of unique items as well as full manuscript facsimiles.


The best way to explore our museum collections from Cambridge is to use our online site for browsing the collection. There, you will find images, descriptions, and bibliographic information for all of our items on permanent display, as well as online portfolios of our Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and House Collections organized under various topical and thematic headings. You can also consult our online exhibitions. Students interested in the Byzantine Empire may be especially interested in our museum’s collection of Byzantine coins and seals, including our Online Catalogue of Byzantine Seals.

The House, the House Collection, and the House Archives

Dumbarton Oaks was once the home of its founders, Robert and Mildred Bliss, and the Museum continues to preserve much of the historic house—its interiors, furniture, and art. Though most of the House is built in a neo-colonial style, its beautiful Pre-Columbian Wing was designed by Philip Johnson in 1963. The best way to get acquainted with the House online is to explore our main site for the House Collection and to browse the Museum’s site for objects in the House Collection. The House also maintains extensive archives related to the creation of the building and its different parts, the acquisition of the art collections (including correspondence with their art dealer Royall Tyler), and the history of the humanities research center.  

Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives

ICFA is a comprehensive archive of archaeological fieldwork in all three of our principal fields: Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies. Materials range from photographs of graffiti on the dome of the Hagia Sophia and now-destroyed temples in Palmyra to the expense registers of field expeditions. The archives can be explored at the ICFA website; extensive finding aids are available there through AtoM@DO, our online database.

Rare Books

Dumbarton Oaks possesses a stunning Rare Books Collection. An overview is available on our library website, but navigating the collection remotely may be a challenge. Most of our early rare materials can be found by navigating to HOLLIS Classic Expanded Search, and setting Locations to “Dumbarton Oaks” and Year Range to “From 1400 Through 1850,” in addition to your main search string. But some materials may still not appear. We encourage you to contact our librarian about rare books that you may find on HOLLIS that are located at Dumbarton Oaks.

The Gardens and the Garden Archives

The gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, in addition to aesthetic splendor, afford a potential resource for anyone interested in the study of gardens, gardening, landscaping, and architecture. The garden is a contemporary working site that is continually evolving and adapting, as well as the product of 85 years of design history. You can read more about the contemporary gardens by way of introduction at this link, and you can also explore our historical garden archives online. Serious students of the gardens will also want to consult Gertrude Jekyll’s 1918 book Garden Ornament, which was a marked influence on Beatrix Farrand, the gardens’ first landscape architect, as well as Farrand’s Plant Book for Dumbarton Oaks (1980, ed. Diane Kostial McGuire).


Dumbarton Oaks’ Library aims to provide materials relevant to its three main programs of study.

While the Library generally admits readers at the graduate level and above, Harvard students interested in our Bliss Undergraduate Reading and Writing Awards should contact us regarding access if they are working on a project with strong connections to our collections. The best way to explore the Library stacks remotely is through HOLLIS, restricting the location field to “Dumbarton Oaks.”

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