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Summer Interns Summary

Posted On August 01, 2012 | 15:51 pm | by lisaw | Permalink

Fifteen wonderful young scholars joined us this summer to work on a variety of institutional projects. Here’s a round-up of the 2012 Dumbarton Oaks summer interns with excerpts from their blog.

Dumbarton Oaks Catalogue of Byzantine Lead Seals

Lain Wilson, our intern in Byzantine Seals, has spent the summer working on the seals online catalog. Lain is currently a graduate student at Princeton University.

Blog excerpt:

It's very exciting to take part in bringing to light these great, albeit small, witnesses of the past. Although it is only possible to contextualize a bare handful of the tens of thousands of seals surviving in the world today, one can imagine them sealing correspondence both humble and exalted-letters between friends, complaining about the weather, or imperial orders to provincial officials-or certifying the security of a monastic treasury, or affixed to the bottom of a chrysobull given to a great landowner.

Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library

Rebecca Frankel, Shane Bobrycki, and Christopher Husch are the interns in the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (DOML). They have been working on the sixth and final volume in the DOML Vulgate Bible series.

Rebecca will begin her sophomore year at Harvard College in the fall.

Blog excerpt:

Though this text remained wildly popular up through the 15th century, its Latin is no longer a "vulgar" attribute as we round the first decade of the 21st. By publishing Jerome's Latin next to Richard Challoner's literal but legible 1752 translation, we at DOML have been striving to make this text accessible to a wider contemporary audience.

Shane is a PhD candidate in medieval history at Harvard University.

Blog excerpt:

In the Liber Officialis, Amalarius offers a complete allegorical interpretation of practically every imaginable part of the liturgy, from the significance of the elements of the mass, the church officials, and the night and day hours, to the secret meaning of individual vestments, vessels, and even hairstyles.

For philologists, musicologists, art historians, and historians, this extraordinary document is a goldmine, but its technical subject-matter and Amalarius’s protoromance-tinted Latin make it difficult to translate. My part in this project is to go through our translator’s work for accuracy, sense, and style.

Christopher is a senior at Harvard College concentrating in the classics.

Garden and Landscape Studies/Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

Robin Abad Ocubillo (Landscape Architecture intern), Siobhan Aitchison (Landscape Conservation intern), and Alexis Lopez Del Vecchio (GIS/GPS intern) have been splitting their time this summer between the department of Garden and Landscape Studies and hands-on work in the Gardens.

Siobhan is a Master's student in Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. As the Landscape

Conservation intern, Siobhan has been focusing on the history of the Kitchen Garden, specifically the Frameyard.

Blog excerpt:

In the late 1940s, the gardeners stopped planting a vegetable garden, and finally after 1949, the pithouse was interred.  My task has been to determine what the Frameyard looked like, what inspired its design, how it was used, and why it was removed. Using surveys of the property from the 1920s, Gail Griffin, Director of Gardens and Grounds and the garden staff were able to locate and begin the excavation of the remains of the pithouse in May of this year.

Robin earned his Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Southern California. As the Landscape Architecture intern, Robin's work has focused on urban topics that are not restricted to Dumbarton Oaks but include the city of Washington, DC.

Blog excerpt:

Beaux-Arts Era urban planning layered a distinct spatial quality onto American cities. These majestic landscapes of carefully framed vistas, axial boulevards, étoiles, and monumental architecture conveyed political potency, social grandeur and cultural primacy. At the same time, the lucid geometry of these grand master plans systematically produced small, incidental spaces in the urban fabric. Situated at the intersection of roads, these irregular voids contradict the rational clarity of the grandiose city schemes that produced them.

Alexis graduated from Harvard's Graduate School of Design with a Masters in Landscape Architecture. As the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) intern, Alexis is working to build upon an existing Geo-database for Dumbarton Oaks.

Blog excerpt:

This year we're focusing on Geo-referencing archival images, plans and sketches from the garden and its design to create an interactive, on-line exhibit. I'm focusing on the Arbor Terrace and its evolution from barnyard in the early 1700s to the site of Cao Perrot's Cloud Terrace installation today.



Image Collections and Fieldworks Archives

Caitlin Balotta is the intern in the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives. Caitlin will be a junior this fall at Harvard College where she is concentrating in English while pursuing a language citation in Spanish. This summer, Caitlin is designing an online exhibit relating to the early activities of Thomas Whittemore.

Blog excerpt:

Over the past few weeks, I have tried my hand at processing one of ICFA's many collections, learning the "ins" and "outs" of archiving through close interaction with a "paper trail" that documents the archaeological activities of Thomas Whittemore (a colorful and enigmatic character, active in the early half of the twentieth century, who can best be described as an English professor-archaeologist-jetsetter-philanthropist) prior to his founding of the Byzantine Institute in 1930.


Library: Manuscripts on Microfilm

Saskia Dirske, Roderick Saxey, and Vladimir Bošković are the interns working on the library’s Manuscripts on Microfilm project. In addition to the interns’ blog, you can also follow the development of this project through the Manuscripts on Microfilm Blog.

Saskia is a graduate student in the Byzantine Greek studies program at Harvard University. She is writing her dissertation on the Spiritual Meadow by John Moschos.

Blog excerpt:

We’re able to learn a great deal about the history of a manuscript, about its transmission and readership. When past readers were especially moved or struck by a passage in a manuscript they might make a note, “θαυμασιώτατον” in the margins. At other times, when the words on the page were less riveting, they might doodle the alphabet or jot down their shopping list or make a comment about the weather. As I was working with the microfilms during the course of the summer, I realized that they too collect traces and evidence of their creators and users.

Roderick is a graduate student in the Department of Greek and Latin at Ohio State University.

Blog excerpt:

One danger of working with the films—and a blessing as well—is simply that we come across so many cool things. If dealing with sloppy or ill-conceived catalogues is like trudging through the Augean Stables, then traveling through a constant series of palæographical masterpieces is like sailing past the Sirens. (“Stop! We will give thee wisdom! …Take a photo; it’ll last longer!”)  Sometimes you have to stop your ears with wax and concentrate on the folio-numbers.

Vladimir is a PhD candidate in the program of Modern Greek Studies at Harvard University. Vladimir’s dissertation deals with the Greek poet Odysseus Elytis.

Blog excerpt:

The Dumbarton Oaks microfilm collection is almost 70 years old and the films by now have acquired a history of their own. We are trying to preserve all the available information on each film: who ordered them and when, how they arrived at the Library, how they were preserved, borrowed or reordered (sometimes even how much they were paid for, like the exquisite Seraglio Octateuch, whose filming cost $50 in December 1966). The result of their use in the Library is a series of seminal studies by eminent scholars.

Museum Curatorial Internship

Danielle Parga is a recent Harvard graduate in the History of Art and Architecture, with a focus on Pre-Columbian Art, and this summer’s curatorial intern for the Dumbarton Oaks Museum. This summer Danielle has been working on the upcoming anniversary exhibition of the Pre-Columbian Collection, slated for 2013.

Blog excerpt:

I was working this week on our Tlazolteotl birthing figure, one of the collection favorites. Our 2013 exhibit hopes to show the stunning history of the piece. For example, Diego Rivera put it in one of his murals and Man Ray did a photomontage of the sculpture. But most famously, Indiana Jones steals a gold copy of it in his well-known opening scene from a booby trapped cave.

Oral History Project

Gabriela Santiago and Erik Frederickson are working on the Oral History Project. While conducting new interviews, Gabriela and Erik have also been publishing interview transcriptions on the Dumbarton Oaks website.

Gabriela is a recent Harvard graduate in the History of Art and Architecture.

Blog excerpt:

Most of the work of the past week has involved researching and contacting potential interviewees, consisting mostly of former fellows and former administrators. Thanks to the Dumbarton Oaks archives we are able to find details about former fellows’ research and contributions while at D.O. The archives also allow us to get an understanding of the general environment and dynamics of the institution in previous decades.


Erik graduated from Harvard College this past spring with a concentration in Classics.

Blog excerpt:

While you can find a basic history of D.O. on its website, the Oral History Project aims to record a more colorful, nuanced history of the institution through the different narratives told by the very people who have lived and worked here. The project interviews former directors, fellows, directors of studies, scholars, staff members, and other people who have played a role in the development of Dumbarton Oaks.


Christopher Alessandrini is the intern in Publications where he has been working on the upcoming annual report. Chris will be a Harvard sophomore this fall.

Blog excerpt:

The Chicago Manual of Style and I have mumbled and bumbled our way through the gawky early stages of acquaintanceship and are, I am happy to report, in the process of cementing a lifelong friendship. Strunk and White are as always charming and flippant and wonderful conversationalists, though one might say too rigid in their declarations. Merriam Webster and I go way back; I won’t bore you with the progression of our friendship, though I will concede that recently we’ve had some unexpected spats. “Yearlong” could’ve been the end of us, Merriam and me.

Year-long ICFA Internship

Last year, after graduating from Harvard University, Clare Moran joined the ICFA team for a year-long internship focusing on the Robert L. Van Nice collection. Clare has chronicled all phases of the project with her processing blog.

In August, Clare will begin a PhD program in the History of Science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over the course of her ICFA internship, Clare observed that “learning the ins and outs of archival collections from an archivist’s perspective has not only developed and stretched my research skills in new directions, but has also prepared me for potential future work in archives and special collections.”