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Eleanor Roosevelt at Dumbarton Oaks

Posted On June 15, 2017 | 10:32 am | by Dumbarton Oaks Archives | Permalink

In a “My Day” newspaper column published on December 28, 1940, Eleanor Roosevelt describes a visit she made to Dumbarton Oaks a month after the institution was transferred to Harvard University. “I can imagine nothing more delightful than being a student at Dumbarton Oaks,” she comments.

While touring the collections, she found herself particularly drawn to the bronze statue of a rearing horse (currently on display in the Byzantine Courtyard Gallery at Dumbarton Oaks), which she considered to be “full of life and action.”

The text of her piece on Dumbarton Oaks reads:

WASHINGTON, Friday—I had a most unique experience yesterday afternoon. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss have turned their house and grounds, known as Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, over to Harvard University. They invited me to bring my mother-in-law, Mrs. James Roosevelt, and Mrs. J. R. Roosevelt to see the house before they, themselves, left it.

Here is a collection of books and objects of art from about the second century up to the fifteenth or sixteenth century. For me, the dominating thing in the museum section is the bronze prancing horse which is so full of life and action.

I can imagine nothing more delightful than being a student at Dumbarton Oaks. The atmosphere surrounding the student will be simple and severe, but he will have a wealth of books, textiles and beautiful things around him. I am sure that any professor given an opportunity to teach in these surroundings, will find it very inspiring and that living in the house will be comfortable and conducive to study.

Roosevelt Autographs

Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum

Bronze Rearing Horse, Romano-Arabian, late second–third century. Byzantine Collection, BZ.1938.12, Dumbarton Oaks Museum.