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Summer at Dumbarton Oaks Goes Digital

Posted On May 28, 2020 | 09:19 am | by Press | Permalink
Robust virtual scholarly programming and internships developed for the summer months

Dumbarton Oaks embarks on its first summer moving scholarly programming to a digital model. Learn more about our online programs in Byzantine Studies, Garden and Landscape Studies, Plant Humanities, and from the museum and library, and meet our scholars.


Byzantine Greek Summer School

We are delighted to announce that Dumbarton Oaks is moving forward with an online program for the Byzantine Greek Summer School. As originally planned, the program runs from June 29 to July 24, 2020. While the approach this year is different, the faculty and course offerings remain the same. 

Designed to improve knowledge of Greek among Byzantinists and others interested in the world of Byzantium (especially since related courses are only taught in a very small minority of universities around the world), the Byzantine Greek Summer School is an intensive four-week course in post-classical and medieval Greek, together with an introduction to the history of Byzantine literature, Greek paleography, the study of medieval manuscripts, and Byzantine book culture. This year, instructed by Professors Alexandros Alexakis (University of Ioannina) and Stratis Papaioannou (University of Crete), the program aims to support the study of these subjects through online instruction and resources, such as the rich digital collections of Dumbarton Oaks (including several Byzantine manuscripts and art objects) as well as the increasing number of digital manuscript collections in libraries and related institutions globally. Apart from attending online lectures and introductions, students complete daily assignments of translations of Greek texts in the original and prepare transcriptions from medieval manuscripts; these translations and transcriptions are then discussed by the group. Simultaneously, in individual tutorials, each student works in depth on a project, topic, or text of their own choice, usually related to their doctoral research.


Byzantine Studies Zoom Webinars

To encourage and increase scholarship among Byzantinists, the Byzantine Senior Fellows are pairing up with one or two scholars of their choice, including Dumbarton Oaks alumni, to discuss a favorite topic for them (within their special field) and its connection to scholarly trends and current events.


Byzantine Studies Summer Podcasts

In June, July, and August, the Byzantine Studies Program is releasing a limited-series podcast featuring distinguished Byzantine scholars. They discuss with a younger scholar from their field an article or a book from another field that has had a profound impact on their work. Podcast speakers and discussants are to be announced.


Garden and Landscape Studies Graduate Workshop

How does landscape history contribute to designing the future? Engaging in the fifth year of our Graduate Workshop during the time of COVID-19 offered the opportunity to imagine a robust digital program of lectures, readings, discussions, and projects. To develop the field of garden and landscape studies and to promote the depth and breadth of future landscape scholarship, Dumbarton Oaks, with the support of the Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies, is hosting an intensive three-week Virtual Garden and Landscape Studies Graduate Workshop from May 18 to June 5, 2020. We are welcoming nine graduate students from schools across the nation whose research is engaged in questions of landscapes, gardens, and cities. These include students researching music history, cultural geography, social justice and design, philosophy, and so much more. The workshop involves readings, discussions, and guest lectures tackling key issues in landscape studies, with special focus on public landscapes and the public realm. We discuss seminal works in landscape and urban history while exploring emerging practices and methods of inquiry such as theories of the public realm, race and identity, and environmental and urban history. This work is enriched by the participation of guest lecturers (urban historians, geographers, landscape architects, scientists, and preservationists) who share their current projects as well as their research methods and frameworks. This is an exciting opportunity to test and consider new modes of study and to build a broad foundation of materials for use in digital scholarship and teaching. We look forward to expanding and enriching the community of garden, landscape, and urban history scholars and colleagues.


Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium: Segregation and the Urban Landscape

While traditionally we gathered here at Dumbarton Oaks, this year we reimagined our annual symposium as a robust virtual investigation and discussion. The legacies of segregation and colonialism, as well as resistance, as they shape urban landscapes are essential areas of study for landscape historians, urban historians, geographers, and anthropologists, among others. Building on our Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies, in particular the 2019 colloquium Interpreting Landscapes of Enslavement, our Garden and Landscape Studies 2020 symposium was scheduled this May to bring scholars together to consider the urban landscape and environment in the Americas. Our scholars prepared a broad range of papers that interrogate the means by which inequities, displacement, and spatial violence have informed the creation, development, and use of spaces and sites in the public realm of American cities. However, due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we were unable to host the symposium here at Dumbarton Oaks. Instead we have reimagined our two-day symposium as a series of monthly virtual events. Every month over the summer, scholars, students, and the public can listen to three prerecorded papers presented on the Dumbarton Oaks YouTube channel. At the close of each month, we are hosting a facilitated discussion on the papers with invited panelists. Invitations to listen to the papers and the discussion sessions will be extended in June with registration instructions. In brief, instead of a consolidated two-day event, we are distributing the symposium content over the summer months, offering more opportunities for a broader audience and deeper engagement in the shared scholarship.


Plant Humanities Summer Program

Why are plants so important to human culture? How can we understand the significance of plants by drawing on fields as diverse as the history of science and medicine, environmental studies, literature, art, and art history? What can the mobility of plants teach us about cross-cultural exchange and the movement of people? How can a focus on plants help us engage in urgent questions of environmental degradation and species extinction? These are the questions we explore in the six-week digital course in Plant Humanities this summer.

Offered under the auspices of the Mellon-funded Plant Humanities Initiative, the course has two parts. The first consists of three weeks of seminars, lectures, and instructional videos introducing different perspectives on the cultural histories of plants from the early modern period to the present. Students are introduced to key concepts and related scholarly literature; online resources and databases on plants; and research with special collections. During the following three weeks, students engage in assisted, remote team projects. Following training in digital humanities skills, participants assemble plant-focused narratives and related visual resources for the Plant Humanities digital resource developed jointly by Dumbarton Oaks and JSTOR Labs. The course aims to provide both a foundation for further interdisciplinary investigations into plants, and an introduction to digital humanities skills.



Public Programming and Outreach 

Over the past few years, Dumbarton Oaks has developed innovative, collections-based educational programs for K–12 students in the DC area. Under the guidance of the manager of education and in collaboration with museum and special collections staff, the Public Programming and Outreach Intern  gains varied and hands-on experience planning, preparing, and executing community programs related to Dumbarton Oaks’ museum collections and historic garden. The intern assists with developing online educational resources focused on close looking and interpretation of objects in our Pre-Columbian and Byzantine Collections. The intern also assists with distance-learning sessions with school partners and community organizations, and with evaluating educational programs. The intern contributes to outreach-focused posts on the Dumbarton Oaks social media platforms as well.


Gender in Byzantium and Oral History Project

The intern joins the Byzantine Studies program to conduct bibliographical research online in order to update the lemmas for the Gender in Byzantium bibliography for publication on the Dumbarton Oaks website. The intern also collects information on people and scholarly trends related to Byzantine Studies in the twentieth century. This Oral History Project offers precious information on Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks from the 1940s onwards. With more than fifty interviews by scholars and staff members, it offers a candid view of the hardships and tribulations of scholarly life in a field that was shaped by the institution. The intern conducts new interviews with distinguished Byzantinists who have a longstanding relationship with Dumbarton Oaks


Garden Archives 

The Research Library, in collaboration with Garden and Landscape Studies, offers an internship to research, catalogue, and deliver online visual materials from the Garden Archives collection pertaining to the historical documentation of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden. The intern is trained remotely by the library staff in standards and practices for cataloguing visual materials, and consults with the Dumbarton Oaks Garden Archives team for research questions and methodology. The intern gains a firm understanding of the history and design of a landmark garden, and trains in the practice of documentation and preservation of cultural heritage through digital tools. The intern acquires significant experience in the field of Digital Humanities through planning for the online delivery of the physical collection of garden plans and drawings. 


Byzantine Seals Online Catalogue 

Interns take a discrete section of the unpublished seals and create records for them in the online catalogue. Interns also assist with the preliminary stages of the upcoming exhibition Lasting Impressions by selecting and researching objects, considering the focus of each section of the collection, and drafting label text. Interns learn to read and interpret Byzantine seals and gain familiarity with preparing such material for a scholarly online publication and a special exhibition. Interns also prepare short pieces for social media to promote engagement with the collection by scholars and a general audience.


Garden and Landscape Centennial 

On the occasion of the upcoming centennial of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden (2021), the Garden and Landscape Studies program is hosting an intern to develop materials on the legacy of the Dumbarton Oaks landscape and the design by Beatrix Farrand. The intern compiles materials, documents, and plans for an anticipated exhibition in 2021–2022. Drawing from the digital and online resources, the intern drafts the exhibition text, designs a brochure, and develops the outline and compiles initial artifacts for both an analog and a digital exhibit in fall 2021. The intern becomes familiar with scholarship in landscape and architectural history as well as the practices of historic research on and preservation of a landmark garden.


Archival Image Cataloging: Syria Documentation Project 

The Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) intern researches, catalogues, and delivers online archival visual materials pertaining to Roman and late antique Syria. The intern is trained remotely in standards and practices for cataloguing visual materials by the staff of the ICFA and consults with ICFA’s academic fellows for research questions and methodology. The intern gains a firm understanding of the architectural and topographical terrain of the Syrian region and becomes familiar with the actions involved in documenting and preserving cultural heritage. The intern acquires significant experience in the field of Digital Humanities through planning for the online delivery of the physical collections. 


Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 

Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (DOML) interns help prepare volumes for publication. Interns read, edit, and comment on the medieval Latin, Old English, and Byzantine Greek subseries submissions, ensuring texts, translations, notes, and all other parts of the submission adhere to DOML style guidelines. As model readers, interns ensure submissions are in line with the mission of making texts and translations accessible to scholars and educated non-specialists alike. Interns are trained to identify and standardize medieval Latin orthography, to copyedit and proofread for DOML style, and to interact diplomatically with translators. They also learn the process by which a proposal becomes a published volume, and observe firsthand how texts are translated into English, often for the first time.