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Preserving the Past, Inspiring the Future

If ever the humanities were necessary . . . it is in this epoch of disintegration and dislocation.
Mildred Barnes Bliss to Paul Sachs, May 9, 1942

The United States was struggling to emerge from a prolonged economic downturn. Europe had to contend with extremist groups that made the future deeply worrisome. The humanities were the last thing on the minds of most people.

Those three sentences relate not to 2015–2016, but to 1940–1941. It was the first year in which Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection operated under the aegis of Harvard University, after its gift by the donors, Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss. As we celebrate seventy-five years of support for the humanities and arts, we look forward to considering the state of our fields on the eve of World War II, their current condition, and their prospects for the future. We will focus especially on Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies, but we will pay heed to music, art, and gardens more generally.

Our year began with a Harvard College Wintersession course on “Culture and Power: Philanthropy, Art, and Diplomacy in America.” The anniversary will include, in addition to our regular scholarly events, a number of extra initiatives to mark this moment in our institutional development and to provide opportunities for reaffirming and strengthening our support for the arts and humanities.

—Jan Ziolkowski, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin and Director of Dumbarton Oaks

Celebrating 75 Years

Anniversary Blog

Seventy-five blogs posts highlighting the history, people, buildings, gardens, and collections of Dumbarton Oaks. New posts will be added each week throughout the anniversary year.

Special Exhibition

Celebrating the anniversary year, 75 Years/75 Objects presents objects from across the Dumbarton Oaks Museum’s three collections. Arranged in sequences of nine themed, consecutive rotations over the course of nine months, the works on view reflect the significance of the historical anniversary year as well as the ongoing assessment of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss’ collecting passion and appreciation.

Garden Perspectives

The seventy-fifth anniversary of the gift of Dumbarton Oaks provides an opportunity to exhibit archival photographs of the garden beginning with its early design and development in the 1920s by Beatrix Farrand and Mildred Bliss through numerous and varied changes over the course of its life. An online exhibit complements a physical installation in the Catalogue House, on view beginning November 20, 2015.

Fellowship Archive

To celebrate Dumbarton Oaks’ seventy-fifth anniversary as a research institute, the three directors of study, with the input of former fellows and staff members, compiled lists of influential books and articles produced with institutional support.

Image, Artifact, and Reminiscence Initiative

To mark its 75th anniversary, Dumbarton Oaks would like to solicit images, artifacts, and reminiscences that relate to institutional life from the earliest years through 1975.