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Emily Umberger

Oral History Interview with Emily Umberger conducted by telephone by Margaret Vo on July 16, 2015. At Dumbarton Oaks, Emily Umberger was twice a Fellow (1985–1986 and 2002–2003) and a Summer Fellow (1987) of Pre-Columbian Studies.

MV: Today is Thursday, July 16, 2015. My name is Margaret Vo, and I have the pleasure of doing a telephone interview today with Emily Umberger, who was first at Dumbarton –

EU: Is this being tape-recorded?

MV: Yes.

EU: Oh, okay.

MV: Who was first at Dumbarton Oaks in 1985 to 1986, and has been here three times altogether, as far as I know. Is that correct?

EU: What did you say? What?

MV: You’ve been here three times at Dumbarton Oaks over the –

EU: As a Fellow, yes. Yes.

MV: Have you been back beyond that, just for the symposia and colloquia?

EU: The what?

MV: Have you been back here beyond those three times for other events?

EU: Oh, yes. I go almost every year for the annual meeting. Yeah. I attend them almost every year. And I have – let me think, spoken a couple of times. I know I did an evening lecture when Elizabeth was still there, and I know that I did a coauthored paper with Cecelia Klein, and also – What else did I do? I did something with the Tlazolteotl seminar.

MV: The what seminar?

EU: It was a little work group, a study group.

MV: Studying – what was it again?

EU: Tlazoteotl, the green goddess, crouching goddess, that little – I guess it’s a symposium. It wasn’t the main one.

MV: Well, that’s wonderful. How did you first come to be involved with Dumbarton Oaks back in 198 –

EU: How did I what?

MV: How did you first come to be involved with Dumbarton Oaks in 1985?

EU: Oh. Well, actually, I – when I was a graduate student at Columbia, my friend, Diana Fane, who later was head of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Brooklyn Museum – she and I went to graduate school together, and we came down to conferences at a time when the annual conference was quite small. And the reason we did this is that my first semester at Columbia, Esther Pasztory was away, and Elizabeth Benson took her place. So, we studied with Elizabeth Benson, and then she went back to Dumbarton Oaks. And so we started going down there. But it was – I think it was just after the time when the conferences were very small, and they actually put the names of the participants on the cover. By the time we got there, they were bigger. They were – it still was a fairly small group in some ways, of people who were interested in Pre-Columbian art and archaeology.

MV: Right. So, did you apply as a Fellow, or were you asked to be a Fellow?

EU: Well, I applied, yes.

MV: And then you subsequently applied for – actually, no. Were you asked for the Summer Fellowship in 1986? Or did you apply to that?

EU: Did what?

MV: Did you – have you – did you apply to all your Fellowships? All three of them? Or were you ever asked –

EU: I applied for a year Fellowship for fall ’85 and spring ’86. And then I applied for the summer workshop on the Aztec empire, which ended up in a group book.

MV: And then once again in the spring of 2003, right?

EU: I didn’t hear that last sentence.

MV: And then once again in the spring of 2003?

EU: Yes. Yes. That was for another project that had to do with the great Coyolxauhqui Stone.

MV: So, what were your initial impressions of Dumbarton Oaks, if you can remember?

EU: My initial impressions?

MV: Yes.

EU: At Dumbarton Oaks? Well, it was a very different place, then. You know, it was a – not – you know, we didn’t – the library was actually in the house. And I was, at first, kind of intimidated, and I went out and got a computer along with a friend of mine from England, who’s still a very good friend. We were shamed into getting computers, which we didn’t have, by other people who had them. So, we just kind of snuck out and got them. [Laughter] I try to keep up. Yes. So, I was pretty nervous.

MV: And can you –

EU: It was quite a formal place for Pre-Columbianists, because we’re used to, in graduate school and also in the field – I’m an archaeological art historian, actually – but anyway, we were kind of rough and ready. Even at Columbia, we wore blue jeans and sneakers. People who ran with us wore high heels and – the women, anyway, did – and suits, et cetera, to school. So, anyway, Dumbarton Oaks seemed like kind of a formal place like that.

MV: Did people dress differently?

EU: I know that other people were really startled, because a lot of the people in Byzantine Studies came from Slavic countries, and were therefore coming into a very, very new environment.

MV: Did you have to dress differently here?

EU: No. Not really. They just said – it just seemed much more of a very serious academic environment, sort of formal. The fact that eating lunch was together, things like that.

MV: Although I have heard about your “Aztec Summer Camp” tee-shirts.

EU: Well, yes. I designed a tee-shirt. I draw. [Laughter] So, yeah, we had them in turquoise and red. And it was called “Aztec Summer Camp,” and it had an Aztec hieroglyph on them for the year date. And then I suppose that Dumbarton Oaks, because of that, they’ve added a number of “do nots” in the rulebook, as a result of especially our summer there, the Aztec Summer Camp. Because we played – I’m sure Frannie Berdan told you – we played volleyball on the lawn.

MV: Yes.

EU: And apparently we dug it up so much that they made us move to the park, but most of the summer, we actually did volleyball on the lawn. And it was between “The Social Scientists” and “The Humanists.” [Laughter] “Social scientist” being archaeologists, and “humanists” being Byzantine people – some Byzantine; not a lot – and art historians and things. And actually, The Humanists won. I don’t know what Frannie Berdan said, but. [Laughter]

MV: I did not hear any of this, humanists and – she just mentioned that there was volleyball, and that was it.

EU: Yes.

MV: Well, that's wonderful. Did you know Mike Smith and Richard Blanton and the people you worked with that summer before you came here?

EU: No. I didn’t. I applied – the people in the group, they started out as – I think they already had – let’s see – Frannie Berdan, Michael Smith, and Rich Blanton, and they were looking for two other members. So, it was Mary Hodge and me. And then Elizabeth Boone was there at the time, so she also worked with us.

MV: And I heard you guys split up the work pretty evenly between the outer areas, inner areas, and you, being the art historian – 

EU: Well, actually, it was – yeah. But the thing was, I was the only archaeological art historian, and they gave me this huge job, which was the inner part of the empire and the exterior, all material remains.

MV: All of them? For you?

EU: Yeah. We did divide it up, and it was my first experience working with archaeologists, and I loved the idea of teamwork like that. And I’ve continued since then to work especially with Michael Smith, but also with Frannie Berdan and Rich. And actually, the three of us are going to meet again this September. We got – from the SAA, we got a – have a fellowship for a one-week meeting at the Amerind Foundation in Arizona to talk about trade routes and exchange. And I’ve persisted in trying to introduce art historical expertise and ways of looking at things – in a more humanistic way – to archaeological projects. But there is a lot I like about – I really believe in the idea of archaeology, and the fact that they work in teams, too, is terrific.

MV: Right.

EU: So, anyway, I continued with a number of these people.

MV: Yes. And, clearly, you still keep in contact and are good friends with all of them, it seems.

EU: Oh, yeah. Mike and I worked together on the Calixtlahuaca project, and so we’re doing independent – everybody on that does independent articles, and then piece –  I believe the next thing we’re going to do is pull together a book, and I’m in charge of ethno-history and the objects, our objects.

MV: And what did you work on the year before that summer, the whole year, from ’85 to ’86?

EU: Oh, I was working on Aztec sculptures with hieroglyphs. It was my dissertation, but this was a postdoc fellowship. And I ended up writing a very long article on antiques revivals and references to the past and Aztec art, which is a fairly large – long article, published by RES, and which turned out to have been very, very popular.

MV: Ah.

EU: It’s probably because I had been introduced to the Aztecs when I began my dissertation, pretty much. And they really weren’t very much done, so I was trying to have a new approach to how we can historicize the monuments and link them with events, even though they’re pretty much mythological in content – but just looking at the few hieroglyphic dates, and the few hieroglyphic names on them. But I just felt like there was so much I didn’t know about the Aztecs, and one thing was the relationship with the past, though that’s actually my main product from that year, was this article on their collection of antiques and their creation of revival pieces, which they’d used to – for political purposes, to endorse changes that they made, historical changes.

MV: Wow. That is way over my head. [Laughter]

EU: By making kind of pseudo antiques.

MV: That’s incredible. And how did you initially get into Aztec and art histori –

EU: Well, I was at Columbia. I came – first, I went to the University of Texas for my Master’s degree, and I wasn’t there at the same time as Elizabeth Boone. She came in the year that I was leaving. I met her and then said good-bye. But anyway, from there, I went down to Mexico, and that’s how I got into Pre-Columbian things, because I had actually worked on Baroque Spain, and I’ve actually published a work on Velázquez, believe it or not. And I’m also very interested in the Colonial period, but you have to be, in order to be an Aztec specialist, because so much of the information was written in the Colonial period.

MV: Right.

EU: And the information – the written information from the Colonial period is really vital, even though it’s different from Aztec times. But it’s really important. Anyway, how did I get into Aztec studies? At Columbia, let’s see, I took a class with Elizabeth Benson, who was down at Dumbarton Oaks, and then I started studying African art, and then – with Esther Pasztory. It was the first time I had actual lecture courses. She was the first person I knew who had the nerve and the energy to pull together whole areas, lecture courses on Mesoamerica and on Peru, because in the – before that, at Texas, I had just seminars. No one did an overview of anything. And they – and then she had a seminar, I believe – they were two seminars on Aztec. She decided nobody was working on Aztec, so we should.

MV: Right.

EU: I’m the only one who actually stuck with it, Pre-Columbian Aztec. Now it’s rare to be an archaeological art historian in the new world, but there’s a big split between archaeologists and art historians, unfortunately, especially in areas like central Mexico, where the connection is not really obvious.

MV: Right. So, do you do plenty of fieldwork yourself?

EU: What’s that?

MV: Do you do plenty of fieldwork yourself?

EU: Well, I hang around the sites. [Laughter] When Mike Smith talked me into working with him on the Calixtlahuaca project, and do all these sculptures, I went down there during the summer and was with the archaeologists the whole time, so I knew what they were doing, and they knew what I was doing. And I went around to all the local museums and even studied those collections, because in Mexico, they were not well-labeled in museum collections, in terms of their provenance and history, so I had to look at everything, because it just wasn’t obvious what came from previous excavations at the site. So, I had to go all over the valley and do that. So, I was doing something different. My fieldwork was actually in museums.

MV: Right.

EU: While they were digging and surveying at the site. But we all worked in a lab that they had set up in the local site museum. Wherever they’d found a sculpture, they’d call me in and I’d say, “What a piece of crap!” [Laughter] And like Mike just said, “Now that’s the real nitty-gritty of archaeology! Not your fancy, fancy stuff.” [Laughter]

MV: Oh, man. On that subject, could you describe a day in your life back at Dumbarton Oaks, in any of the years you –

EU: Okay. Well, I got a – what happened was, when I was at Columbia, I would get fellowships but no place to go and work until I was a Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum, and then I had an office, and I’d stay there until midnight. So, I continued this pattern at Dumbarton Oaks. I’d get up in the morning and work at home on stuff and read, and then I’d run down to – from my apartment, which I think was Sherry Arms or something like that?

MV: Sherry Hall?

EU: Sherry Hall, yes. And so I’d run down to the – Dumbarton Oaks, in order to have the communal lunch, and then I’d work in my office there. I believe – was my computer there? I guess it was. I can’t remember. That’s funny. I remember it was a green screen, and I remember that Dorie Reents-Budet was there for research, and she had a Kaypro. [Chuckle] But anyway – and then I worked in the office at Dumbarton Oaks from after lunch until about eleven at night, something like that. And that’s how I still do things.

MV: To this day.

EU: And I just love having an individual office separate from where I live, because when I was doing my dissertation, when I didn’t have an office, I would get up from, you know, bed, go to my refrigerator, pull out my draft, put it on the kitchen table – [Laughter] – do my research, and put it back in the refrigerator. [Laughter] That’s how we protected things.

MV: Oh, man.

EU: You’ve never heard stories of people whose entire dissertations went up in flames or were stolen from cars?

MV: Never.

EU: Yeah. [Laughter] Yeah, well, we didn’t have computers. Most of us didn’t use computers.

MV: Ah. So, you wrote it all by hand?

EU: It was fairly new. It was only when I got to Dumbarton Oaks that I got a computer. And the other person who did it is Peter Heather, who is a Roman and Goth specialist, who – he was doing his Ph.D. at Oxford, but he’s now at King’s College in London. And he had to do it, too. And I assume that anybody from Eastern Europe had to run out and get a computer, if they wanted to keep up. It was humiliating. All these other American scholars had computers.

MV: And was that also how it was when you came back in 2003?

EU: Oh, well, I already was into computer life, you know. I did everything on computer by then. I did have the three – it was different – in 1985 and ’86, all the Pre-Columbian Fellows were in a single row in the basement of the Main House, and our library was down there, too. So, we were always in the basement. Then, with Aztec Summer Camp, we also worked together in that big room. But then when I came back, I had a separate office, and people had separate offices. Some were in the basement. But they had – by then, they had partitioned walls. And I had an office that was – if you go down the hall, there’s a doorway with a little staircase that goes up to a few rooms there. It’s right before – when you’re walking down the hall, it’s before you climb the steps that go to the back of the auditorium.

MV: Yes.

EU: Do you know what I mean?

MV: Yes.

EU: You know, in the exhibition space – it’s somewhere. I can’t remember where that door was, but – so I had a separate office up there. And then other people had – I guess I was a senior Fellow, and so the – or a Fellow, a regular Fellow. Then there were Junior Fellows, and they – that was like Bill Barnes and Gerardo Gutierrez, and they were down in separate offices in the basement with partitions. But they kept beating out the basement in ways and putting in rooms. Every time I came back, it was totally different. We used to walk through like, boiler rooms and things. But then they put up all these white walls and everything.

MV: Right. Yeah, I haven’t seen a single –

EU: There are quite few who still know where the bathrooms are. [Laughter]

MV: Relatedly, I recently read through Rebecca Rollins Stone’s interview, and she mentioned you two were next door neighbors?

EU: Yeah. Yeah.

MV: So, how was that?

EU: Yeah, Rebecca and I. And yeah, this was at Sherry Hall.

MV: So back during –

EU: And I remember she had – somebody before her had painted a big tree on the wall –

MV: Of her room?

EU: Yeah, in her room. And she was – and I don’t know if it was still there when she was there, and she covered – I don’t remember what happened, but somehow, it disappeared. But yes, I had an apartment there, next door to Rebecca.

MV: Did you guys have –

EU: So, she was one of the people I knew well. I also knew – Steve Houston was a Fellow, and Anita Cook – that was during the year. That was during ’85 – ’86, the yearlong Fellowship. And another good friend of mine was Peter Heather, who’s in England. And he’s a Byzantine specialist.

MV: Did you have dinner with the other Fellows, too?

EU: Did I what?

MV: Have dinner. With the other Fellows?

EU: Well, Peter and I ate together every night. [Laughter] And hang and watch TV. Yeah. And – oh, yes, and I used to go down to Anita Cook’s apartment, and her husband at the time, Abelardo Sandoval, was – he’s Caribbean, and he was a great cook of fish and stuff. So, yeah, we did do things together.

MV: And – I’m jumping subjects a little bit, but –

EU: Also, Elizabeth Boone had some little get-togethers at her place, too.

MV: Ah. Well, right on her subject, did you ever get to work with Jeffrey Quilter in 2003?

EU: Not much, really. I really don’t know him.

MV: So, is there a bit you can touch on about –

EU: Well, it was more – Elizabeth Boone was terrific.

MV: How was she to work with?

EU: Very businesslike, very funny, and works really, really hard. And she had good advice, and – I’m trying to think. You know, I still very much admire her and appreciate her.

MV: And on that note –

EU: Jeffrey Quilter I don’t know very well.

MV: Has Dumbarton Oaks’s Pre-Columbian department changed a lot from director to director, as you’ve observed?

EU: Let me think. [Pause] Well, it’s just the whole place looks very different, to have the library in a separate place. And it looks much more formal. And I know Bridget, too, by the way.

MV: Ah.

EU: Because she’s been there a long time in the library, so I visit her and say hello to her every time I’m there, and we’d talk.

MV: So, while you were here in the 1980s, were there ever any formal attempts made to encourage socialization among scholars?

EU: To encourage what among scholars?

MV: Socialization.

EU: Oh. Well, I believe every evening, we had sherry hour, where we had goldfish and drank sherry in the – the room with the big table. What was that? The seminar room.

MV: The Founders Room?

EU: Yeah, the Founders Room, yeah.

MV: Wait, goldfish like the crackers?

EU: Yes. [Laughter] I remember this very distinctly. And I believe it was every – was it every afternoon, or was it just once a week? I cannot remember, but it was a memorable – everybody went, the Byzantine specialists and the Pre-Columbianists. And then there were also monthly Tertulias, where one of the Fellows would present work, and everybody came, both Pre-Columbian, Garden – all Pre-Columbia, Garden, and Byzantine in that same room. And then, of course, we all ate lunch together, too.

MV: Right. I can’t believe it, though. Goldfish and sherry. [Laughter]

EU: Isn’t that funny? Did nobody ever mention that before?

MV: No.

EU: Yeah, it was really – [Laughter]

MV: Oh, wow.

EU: And I still can’t remember if it was once a week – I guess it couldn’t have been every day. It was probably once a week.

MV: That would be a lot of sherry and goldfish every day.

EU: Yeah. Too much. So, it must have been once a week. But I remember it very distinctly. We always made fun of the fact that there were just sherry and goldfish. [Laughter]

MV: That’s wonderful, though.

EU: Yes. Yeah.

MV: Have you witnessed any –

EU: And we also did a lot of sporting activities, like swimming, especially. That was during the summer. We did a lot of swimming, and – to go with our basketball. And then Peter Heather and I played tennis, often. And then he decided he actually had to finish his dissertation, so we stopped. Apparently, he ran in the morning with Steve Houston and played tennis in the afternoon with me.

MV: Wow. [Chuckle] What was that about basketball? I have not heard about –

EU: No, no. Running.

MV: Yes.

EU: And tennis.

MV: But you also said basketball.

EU: I didn’t say basketball, did I?

MV: Yes, at some point.

EU: Volleyball. It was volleyball we were doing, remember?

MV: Oh, okay.

EU: Yes, we did that too, and we’d go swimming in the summer. And, as I said, with the volleyball, they eventually moved us over to the park, because they said we were damaging the lawn. [Laughter] And also apparently making a tee-shirt with Dumbarton Oaks on it, a joke tee-shirt, was also a big no-no. So, I believe in the rulebooks, which we had to read carefully, they wrote down ‘no te-shirts’ and ‘no volleyball on the lawn.’ Something like that.

MV: Really? [Laughter]

EU: Yes. There was a rulebook.

MV: Oh, man.

EU: Of things that you could and couldn’t do.

MV: Was that a rule that they instigated after you, because of you, or was it –

EU: No, it was there – no, no, no. [Laughter] It was there already. So, we knew we were supposed to behave, and I knew – and eating was supposed to be – there was a rule about eating, that you were supposed to mix with other people. And I know Elizabeth Boone used to eat a banana cutting it up, rather than just putting it in her mouth.

MV: Huh.

EU: Which seems funny.

MV: Right, right.

EU: Yeah.

MV: Have you observed any major changes, beyond just the aesthetic changes, at Dumbarton Oaks over the times you’ve been here?

EU: I’m only back for the conferences, so it’s mostly the physical changes that I’ve noticed.

MV: Or just even in the year that you were here in the 1980s.

EU: Well, before me, before Diana and I started going down in the ‘70s. And we probably started in – let me think – seventy – the fall of ’74, I would guess. And before – and the books before that were edited by Elizabeth Benson. And they were fairly small, and she apparently edited them line by line. And this is what I used to – I used to work in the Metropolitan Museum, too, and the people there very carefully – I don’t know if they still do it, but they edited books, but they’d have all these researchers who would actually go to the library and check the references exactly, and to make sure that what was cited was on that page.

MV: Wow.

EU: That book. And that – that is an old-fashioned type of editing that doesn’t happen anymore. And I think now, there’s been – the usual thing is that an author is responsible for his or her own accuracy.

MV: Right.

EU: Unless the person who’s reading it – you know, the editor now reads it for content, if they are making sense. And if they happen to know that something is wrong, they’ll point it out, but nobody does that, going back to the library and checking references. But the books didn’t come out as fast, by any means.

MV: That seems very time-consuming as a practice.

EU: It’s really careful.

MV: Right.

EU: Yeah.

MV: So, back in the 1980s –

EU: But you have to have a lot of peo – you have to hire people to do that. And Elizabeth Benson did it herself, I believe.

MV: Wow.

EU: Yeah. Also, I believe the focus has expanded, and I can’t remember. Is it they added Colonial, or they added Native American? It used to be just Pre-Columbian.

MV: I don’t know the answer to this question. I will look into it.

EU: Yeah. It’s something to look up. But I think they expanded what they were covering in that unit, the Pre-Columbian unit.

MV: Did –

EU: I have to remember which direction, whether it was possibly Native North American, or possibly Colonial, Colonial Latin American.

MV: Was there – beyond just the sherry evenings and lunches, did the departments interact on an academic level at all?

EU: The Tertulias.

MV: Tertulias.

EU: T-E-R-T-U-L-I-A. Tertulia. And these were presentations by the Fellows to the whole group.

MV: And was that the extent of the academic interaction?

EU: Yeah. And everybody did it once.

MV: Was that a thing that only –

EU: And they – what was that?

MV: I was going to say, was that a thing that only happened when you were here in the summer, or was it also when you were here doing your dissertation?

EU: During the year. I wasn’t actually doing my dissertation. I had finished my dissertation. I was doing beginning publications after that. But it was during the year. And I’m trying to think if we did – you know, during the summer, we just worked so closely together all the time, within Pre-Columbian. And then I think Peter was hanging around there, too. This was my token Byzantine person. [Laughter] He was more like one of us too, in a way, because he was, you know, like, western European. He was British, so he’s much closer to the American system, and a lot of the people in Byzantine were Greek or from Slavic countries, things like that, so culturally very, very different from the rest of us.

MV: Right. And in the 80s, what was Dumbarton Oaks’s relationship with the public like? It’s much more public a place now than it was then.

EU: Well, we had concerts, always.

MV: Did you attend any of them?

EU: Yes, on occasion. But actually, my uncle and aunt lived in D.C., and – he was a minister, and I don’t know if that has anything to do with anything, but he restored this church on Thomas Circle, believe it or not. And he also liked to go to the concerts, so on occasion, I went to a concert with him. So, I did have relatives nearby.

MV: Right. And –

EU: I could tell you. One thing that was hard was that they didn’t allow you to bring pets to the – your apartment. [Laughter] I had a really hard time – I had a really hard time – I left my cats with my mother in New Jersey for a year.

MV: Did you bring any pets with you in 2003?

EU: No. They were still not allowed. I don’t know if they’re allowed now, but it’s still – it’s hard, because I’ve always had pets.

MV: Right. And otherwise, beyond the concerts. Were there any other publically open things at Dumbarton Oaks?

EU: I went to the Garden conferences, too, and others that were outside of Pre-Columbian. And I know some other people did, too. Sometimes, we crossed over and went to the annual conferences with the different groups.

MV: So, it wasn’t just a unique thing that you did, but it was –

EU: No, no. Oh, no, there was one Pre-Columbianist, Margaret MacLean, who was an Inca specialist, but she was – a specialist – but she was also in – she was actually a Garden Fellow, because she was working on landscaping and things like that. So, that was a cross between – we knew some of the Garden people, too.

MV: Did you work in the garden a lot, yourself?

EU: I went – oh, yeah. That was a real plus, to have that garden. I didn’t work in it, but I – every day, after lunch, invariably, a number of us would stroll through the garden. And I – wherever I am, I have to have a garden. I have one here, too.

MV: Yeah, this garden is quite incredible.

EU: It was wonderful. And I remember different seasons, too. They’d sometimes let us stay – there were certain times when they told us we could come and take a plant. This was in ’85, ’86. In 2003, when I was back, it was snowing really heavily, and I actually went over to Safeway – which I think is no longer there – and picked up plants and flowers which I kept in my office. The Safeway’s not there anymore, is it?

MV: Where? On M Street?

EU: No, it’s on Wisconsin.

MV: Yes, there’s still a Safeway on Wisconsin.

EU: Okay. There’s a big one. And there, you would run into people from the Russian Embassy.

MV: Ah. Yeah, it is quite close to the embassies, the various embassies.

EU: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

MV: Did people from the embassies ever come to Dumbarton Oaks on official visits?

EU: I don’t think so. [Laughter] They should have, but –

MV: I think that would be something nice that the American consulate could do.

EU: Yes, that would have been nice. Yeah. But, you know.

MV: Right. And where did you live in 2003?

EU: 2003? Is it called La Quercia?

MV: Oh! Yes. That’s where us interns live now.

EU: Okay. Yeah. That’s where we lived. It was no longer Sherry Hall. Some people lived in the Fellows House, where we ate.

MV: Right.

EU: And then the rest of us lived in apartments. The people in the Fellows House tended to be people from Slavic countries and eastern countries. And then American and Brits, et cetera, tended to live in La Quercia.

MV: Was it not split by what you studied?

EU: What’s that?

MV: Was it not split up by what you studied?

EU: Not so much. But it tended to be that way, because Pre-Columbianists are fairly not from Slavic countries.

MV: Right.

EU: If you know what I mean. Or Russia, or something like that. Yeah. [Laughter]

MV: In general, do you miss the times you were at Dumbarton Oaks?

EU: Do I miss it? In a way, yes. Yes. Yeah, the – and some of my – I got to know some people very, very well, and even if I’m not in touch with them all, I feel like I really know them very well and respect them.

MV: Did you ever –

EU: I feel like they’re permanent colleagues. And whenever I see them at meetings, you know, it’s like old times.

MV: Did you ever bring your family here?

EU: I don’t think so, no. It’s really funny, I – well, I’m single, and I come from the East Coast, went to school in Manhattan and lived there, and also went to college in Philadelphia and grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And I think when I would come home through those years, I expected people to come down and visit, and I think they thought – because my siblings lived in New York and Boston and places – they thought it was so easy now and that they would eventually, and they never did. However, I did – my aunt and uncle came to Dumbarton Oaks with me on occasion, for concerts, things like that.

MV: Right.

EU: Because they lived in Alexandria, actually.

MV: So, just across the river.

EU: Yeah.

MV: What is the thing, you would say, stands out the most to you, from your time at Dumbarton Oaks?

EU: Hmm. [Pause] I miss the friendships I made, which are longer lasting than college and high school and grammar school, and the day-to-day working with and getting to know people in the field.

MV: And you still come back and meet new people, too.

EU: Yeah. Yeah. And at the time, too. Yes. I’m in contact with scholars in the field, especially at the annual conferences or people who are visiting, and certain types of opportunities, like the curators of a big Aztec exhibit in – now, where were they? Eva and Arne Eggebrecht came and visited Elizabeth. She called me into her office, and then we talked them into setting up a Templo Mayor – a big conference with their exhibition, and fly a number of us over. [Laughter]

MV: Wow.

EU: And they did it! [Laughter] It was great. And that’s just because they were visiting Elizabeth, and she said, “Come on in!” [Laughter]

MV: Wow.

EU: Yeah. And I’ve actually – so we had to cut off, because – well, you know at these schools, like, Pre-Columbian is very, very rare in art history, and I used to be at Arizona State University, which had non-western specialists. Here, I am the only one in any non-European subject.

MV: Really?

EU: In art history. And the archaeology department isn’t – at ASU, the archaeology department was very much central Mexican also. And here, they aren’t. They used to have more, but not really. So, I feel rather isolated. And also, it’s because of the universities now that there are many fewer people who do pre-modern stuff.

MV: Right.

EU: And in art history, there are actually only three of us here, and when we retire – and I’m going to do it soon – and we’re  – one of us can’t retire really soon, but two of us are. And they’re not going to replace us. Even early modern. And everybody is into, kind of like – it’s like selfies, their own identity and modernism.

MV: Right.

EU: And so you don’t find people who are interested in a past that actually is not theirs, even. And that’s also been part of the problem with teaching, too, is I’ve had students come to study with me in Pre-Columbian, and they go into Colonial Mexico, which is fascinating, but it doesn’t – it takes a very special person to work on the archaeological materials, a person who’s not in archaeology and anthropology department.

MV: I guess it’s good that we have Dumbarton Oaks to perpetuate some of the scholarship.

EU: Yes! Absolutely! And, in fact, I talked to Colin about that. He wanted – I was reading a manuscript for him, because he said it was important for us to show that art history actually contributes to the study of Pre-Columbian.

MV: Is this Colin McEwan?

EU: Yes. Yeah. And I know him from London, some papers I did in London.

MV: So, not through Dumbarton Oaks at first?

EU: No, this was bef – when he was a curator at the British Museum.

MV: Okay.

EU: And I’ve seen him at Dumbarton Oaks, but I actually haven’t had a conversation with him. I did a manuscript reading for him, and that’s when he said it was important to make clear the contribution of art history to these studies.

MV: So, is there anything that I’ve left out that you’d like to add? I feel like it’s been quite a comprehensive interview.

EU: I can’t think of anything. There’s probably misinformation. [Laughter]

MV: People could cross-reference some things.

EU: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s that day-to-day – especially if you have that two semester Fellowship – contact with other people that makes you feel like you really, really know them. And it’s a very special friendship, because it’s an intellectual friendship as well as personal.

MV: Right. Did you ever go to Georgetown that much, or the rest of D.C.?

EU: To eat, yes. I – actually, I didn’t go – I should have gone more to the Library of Congress. I did go down to the National Gallery somewhat, and the Library of Congress is actually the place I really should have spent a lot more time.

MV: It’s quite far away.

EU: Yeah, it’s a bit – it’s what happens. People get stuck at a place and don’t go out. I was a guest – I replaced Tom Cummins at Chicago for a ten week quarter, and the students were very, very bright, but I couldn’t get them to go over to the library at Loyola, which actually is a religious school, and had a great deal of literature and manuscripts that related to the Colonial period in Mexico. And I couldn’t get them to go, leave campus and go to another university in the city.

MV: Wow.

EU: And I ended up getting a friend of mine at Arizona State University to send me books from the library, because the library there at Chicago did not have that strong Mesoamerican balance. And, by the way, yeah, the two libraries that I really appreciate are Dumbarton Oaks and Arizona State University, which has excellent central Mexico – probably because the archaeology department is so good. And, of course, in graduate school, Columbia University’s library is fantastic, and, you know, public.

MV: Right.

EU: Incredible. Oh, the other thing that is great about Dumbarton Oaks is you see real objects, the collection, too. And it’s within the city, too. And I grew up outside of Manhattan, so I was very used to it. But I have students now who have never seen anything. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Museums –nothing. And there’s no Pre-Columbian art in Arizona. People are used to reading and not looking. And I –

MV: Not looking at the real artifacts.

EU: Exactly. So, I really enjoyed being in a museum environment, too.

MV: Yeah, I think that’s quite unique, to be able to look at the objects you’re studying.

EU: Absolutely, and also know the problems of doing a museum installation and antiquities, and all that sort of stuff. And actually, it was something I did – when I was in graduate school, I worked at the Metropolitan Museum, and I also was a guest curator at Natural History for an exhibition. And I’ve always been interested in museum stuff. In fact, that was actually where I was aiming for as a career.

MV: In curatorial work?

EU: Yeah. But women didn't get museum jobs often.

MV: Well, times have certainly changed.

EU: Yes, they have. Although the Metropolitan Museum is still very conservative, and it took them a long time to allow women to have curatorships. They were called research associates at the Met.

MV: Is that still how it is now?

EU: They were forced to have Julie Jones as the head of Pre-Columbian, et cetera, but for many years, she was Acting Director of that whole unit. Now they allow women. But still, in big departments, you know, it’s a male mafia up there.

MV: It’s tough. It is tough, indeed.

EU: It is tough. And I didn’t realize it at the time, when I was a graduate student, because I’d been at fellowships, so I thought, “What’s the big fuss?” And then I had – then I did see it in other places.

MV: So, where are you now? [Phone rings] You said you were at Arizona, and now you are –

EU: I was at Arizona State. I’m now at University of Arizona. Let me get this phone call. Hold on.

MV: Oh, yes.

EU: Hello? Oh, well, they hung up.

MV: Ah. [Laughter]

EU: I’m now at University of Arizona in Tucson, for the past five years.

MV: And then are you – you’re planning on retiring soon?

EU: Yeah. Yeah.

MV: Will you continue doing publishing and research after that?

EU: Absolutely. In fact, now I say I can. [Laughter] I was – my father was very much into a democratic education at universities. And so I came out to Arizona, and now I realize it was a bit of a mistake, because the teaching job is – it just takes all your time.

MV: Right.

EU: And it’s just – you know, they expect one person to do huge amounts, and so it’s – you know, I love the students I’ve had, but I just don’t feel like I’ve had the chance to do as much research and stuff like that as I could. So, yes, that’s what I’m doing. And when I retire, I think I may actually go back to Phoenix, because the libraries there are pretty good, the university library. And also that’s where Mike Smith is. And the archaeologists up there really get together. They have parties. I love these things where people get together and talk, students and professors, et cetera. And retirees, like George Coghill, lives there. Do you know who he is?

MV: No, I don’t.

EU: He’s a Teotihuacan specialist. And Barbara Stark is retired from that department, but she goes to the parties. And those were my friends, the archaeologists.

MV: How often do you see –

EU: At ASU, but also in general. So, I came down here because it’s actually – I just thought it would be – I had heard that it was a better university in some ways. And it really is a wonderful, funky area. You know, wonderful mission church nearby and stuff like that, but you just can’t move late in your career.

MV: Not a recommendation you’d make me, then?

EU: If you have a job, and you’re settled in a place for a while, friends, nearby friends are very important. Being near friends and family is very, very important. So, anyway, I’m going to move back to the area where I have friends and all, and I'd love to be able to go back to the east coast, but I don’t think I can afford it. And also, I would end up in a city like Philadelphia, where maybe I could find one or two old friends, and I’d be close to my relatives, but having access to libraries, things like that, would be more difficult. Because in order to publish and write, you have to have a library. And I’m now very leery about moving to a place where I don’t have good old friends.

MV: Yeah, I mean Frances Berdan is also on that coast.

EU: What’s that?

MV: Frances is also on that coast? Frannie Berdan?

EU: I still didn’t get what you said.

MV: Frances Berdan is also on that coast.

EU: Oh, yes. Yes. No, Frances is not on that campus, but yes, she’s over there. We see her often enough. She has friends at Arizona State, and she and Rich Blanton and Mike Smith and I are going to be part of this symposium at the Amerind, and they all worked on Aztec Imperial Strategies with me, so it’s going to be great fun.

MV: Yeah, it’s nice that you two – I mean, all of you have remained so close.

EU: Yes, yeah. And worked together. And it’s – I like the fact that they’re all archaeologists, and they call on me for the impossible tasks. [Laughter]

MV: Art history is important indeed.

EU: It is! Yeah. But I’m – it’s just bad luck that tendencies in this country have gone away from historical studies and archaeological studies, things like that, and the arts. So, I’m pushing. Do you have an arts background?

MV: Well, I’m currently an undergrad, but I’m studying Folklore and ­–

EU: Oh, you are? Really?

MV: Yes.

EU: Where are you going to school?

MV: Harvard.

EU: Okay.

MV: So, I’m studying Folklore and Mythology, which is very much humanities.

EU: Yeah. I’m going to tell you one thing, now that you mention Harvard, and that is something that is somewhat negative. Dumbarton Oaks is too much run by Harvard. And when they have symposia, they’ll pick a person, and that person will get the speakers, their close friends, et cetera, and they’re missing out on whole other groups, if I can put it that way.

MV: Is Dumbarton Oaks evenly balanced for graduate students and Fellowships between those at Harvard and those at other schools?

EU: Yeah. Yeah. It took me – I applied four times before I got my first Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks. They told me, they said, “Oh, don’t bother. They never give Fellowships to people from Columbia.” They have since, but I think before me, there was only one person.

MV: Right.

EU: And it was very much Harvard and Yale dominated.

MV: With our current director, he’s definitely trying to branch out much more, so.

EU: Yeah. And kind of like Barbara Stark has been invited maybe once or twice to give a paper. Other people who are really big in the field have not been invited often, at all.

MV: Hmm.

EU: And I think that’s a real problem. But it has gone – it certainly has gone from a very small, restricted group – I remember conferences, you’d go, and somebody would give a paper, and then you’d have H. B. Nicholson, who was Mr. Aztec, standing up and speaking for the Aztecs, and you’d have Peter Furst, speaking for west Mexico, and Gordon Willey, speaking for the Maya. And the field is much, much bigger now.

MV: Are those all Harvard people?

EU: All over the place. People, audiences, and such.

MV: All right. Well, I think that’s all the questions I have for you, unless you have anything else to add.

EU: Nope. That’s it.

MV: Well, thank you so much for your time.

EU: Sure. Good luck!

MV: Thank you. Good luck to you, too.

EU: Okay. And Harvard is a wonderful place. I know that. [Laughter]

MV: I do love it a lot.

EU: Okay.

MV: Have a nice day!

EU: Thank you. Bye-bye!