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J. Scott Raymond

Oral History Interview with J. Scott Raymond, undertaken by telephone by Alyce de Carteret on Wednesday, August 11, 2010. At Dumbarton Oaks, J. Scott Raymond was a Senior Fellow of Pre-Columbian Studies (1996–2002).

AdC: Good afternoon. I am Alyce de Carteret. Today is Wednesday, August 11th, 2010, and I have the pleasure of speaking with J. Scott Raymond, joining me by phone from Calgary, today. Dr. Raymond is currently a professor of archaeology at the University of Calgary and formerly a Senior Fellow in the Pre-Columbian Studies branch at Dumbarton Oaks. Thank you so much for speaking with me today.

JSR: You’re welcome.

AdC: And so just to begin, how did you first come to know about Dumbarton Oaks and what were your initial impressions of the institution?

JSR: Well, I knew about the – about Dumbarton Oaks long before I ever visited there, by reputation. But I guess my first real knowledge about Dumbarton Oaks would have been when I was a graduate student and the conferences that Dumbarton Oaks organized, particularly the conferences on the Olmec and the Chavin, which were subjects that particularly interested me. And the publications of those conferences I certainly read as a graduate student; they were cited frequently. So, I came to know Dumbarton Oaks by its reputation long before I ever visited the institution. My first visit to Dumbarton Oaks was at the invitation of Elizabeth Boone, who was the Director of Pre-Columbian Studies at that time, back in – I think it was about ’92, maybe ’92, ’93. She invited me there to discuss possibilities of organizing a conference, and we discussed at that time several different possible themes. That was my first time to really truly enter the building and get to know Dumbarton Oaks. She put me up at the Fellows Hall, which I think it goes under a different name these days, and I was very impressed with the elegance of the institution. And what impressed me even more than the elegance and the collections, I think, was the warmth and hospitality I felt from the staff, from the administrators, and from the Fellows that were there – that feeling, immediate feeling of collegiality that one had there. It was a very inspiring place to be. I can certainly see the value for senior and junior scholars spending time in the library, but also spending time rubbing elbows with other colleagues. I particularly liked being able to become acquainted with the Byzantine scholars a bit, learning more about their studies.

AdC: And so you’ve been involved with some symposia and some of the resulting publications at Dumbarton Oaks. Could you characterize the symposia at Dumbarton Oaks and what the atmosphere is like at those conferences?

JSR: Let’s see how to characterize the conferences. They’re very – they take on the feeling that one gets, kind of a very respectful feeling of scholarship that Dumbarton Oaks exhibits and you feel immediately when you enter the building. They are always very well organized and, yes, one has a feeling that if you’re in the audience that you should feel free to ask questions and interact with those who are delivering the papers. There’s a real strong sense of hospitality. The hospitality is outstanding, from Dumbarton Oaks, from just greeting you at the door as you arrive at the conference and the coffee and refreshments that are served, the banquet, it’s just a very wonderful experience. I would say, and at the same time, there’s a – kind of a very, a sense of seriousness to these conferences, so that you right away get involved in taking an interest in the subjects that are being discussed.

AdC: Are there any symposia that stand out in your mind as being more successful than others?

JSR: I guess it depends on your measure of success. Some of the conferences have attracted larger audiences than others, but I’m always surprised at the good attendance, which has been at all of the conferences. Even when the conferences seem to focus on what I had expected to be quite solitary subjects, they’ve attracted a large audience and a somewhat diverse audience, not just the people whose field of research fit particularly into the theme. I guess one of the conferences that I enjoyed the most, besides the Formative Ecuadorian conference that I was involved with, was the Inca conference, which attracted the senior scholars in the field. And one had a chance, as not quite that senior scholar, to be able to observe the interaction among the very revered Inca ethno-historians at the conference. And on that occasion, we also were – the Senior Fellows and the participants in the symposium were invited to a kind of soiree at the home of the Peruvian ambassador, which was quite an occasion. So, that was a conference that particularly impressed me.

AdC: Wow. So, were you able to get to some of the off-site symposia that Dumbarton Oaks was able to organize?

JSR: No, and that’s something that happened after I moved off the Senior Fellows board, although the one in Peru was being organized at the time I was still on the Senior Fellows Committee, and I had hoped to get to that, but I was unable to get there. But I was pretty pleased that the new innovative thing to do, partly stimulated by the renovations that were happening at Dumbarton Oaks, which made it impossible to, I think, for one, possibly two years, to actually hold it on site at Dumbarton Oaks.

AdC: So, speaking of being on the Senior Fellows Committee, what were your responsibilities as a Senior Fellow, and how would you describe the atmosphere of those meanings?

JSR: Responsibility, as I saw it as a Senior Fellow, was to help – well, we were expected to attend two committee meetings each year, one in the fall at the time that the conference was held, and another in January or early February to help to make decisions about who would be Fellows at Dumbarton Oaks in the coming year. So, I saw that my responsibility in each of those instances was to offer advice and to enter into discussions about things that were of concern to the pre-Columbian program each time. Most of our time, I would say, was spent on considering proposals for future symposia and reviewing applications for the fellowships, and then deciding on the fellowships, which was quite a difficult process every year. And there were many more excellent applications than there were possible fellowships available. In the time that Ned Keenan was the Director, plans were underway for the building of the new library and other facilities there at Dumbarton Oaks. So, he would bring blueprints of those to the meetings, and we would look them over, and he would occasionally ask for our opinions about what changes – how the changes might impact or effect the pre-Columbian program. So, those are, I think, the responsibilities: to offer a perspective. And I’m an Andeanist, so from a professional point of view, I would try to reflect the Andean archaeology perspective. Others were Andeanists, but art historians, and Mesoamericanists, and so on. So, each of us tried, I think, our best to try to represent our own perspectives. But, generally we – there wasn’t often much disagreement among us. I always enjoyed going to those meetings. They were always very, very civilized. I found them interesting, and again, the hospitality of Dumbarton Oaks was excellent and made it a very pleasant visit.

AdC: As a Senior Fellow, do you think that Dumbarton Oaks was able to strike a fair balance when accepting applications from various potential Junior Fellows – striking a fair balance between the Andeanists, and Mesoamericanists, art historians, and archaeologists?

JSR: We certainly tried to, and I think we did. We were – in selecting Fellows – we were, in the first place, selecting them on the basis of merit or how well they would fit into the community of scholars at Dumbarton Oaks, and how well suited their project was to making use of the resources of Dumbarton Oaks. But beyond that we also tried to consider whether we had more representations of art historians and good representation of Mesoamericanists and Andeanists. It wasn’t always true that we had the numerical balance in any one year, but I think over time, while there might be more Andeanists one year than Mesoamericanists, the next year there very likely would be more Mesoamericanists than Andeanists, and I guess the thing would be true for art historians and archaeologists.  There, in my memory – I’d need to go back and actually count it – but in my memory there were probably more applications from Mesoamericanists than from Andeanists, largely because there simply are more archaeologists who work in Mesoamerica, studying Mesoamerica, than there are Andeanists. So, there was probably a bias there, and for that reason. I would guess, probably, that was reflected in the number of fellowships over the years. But we certainly did try to achieve a balance.

AdC: And did the Senior Fellows have any interaction with the Fellows and Junior Fellows once they were selected?

JSR: Yes, it would be the next year. So, in January we would have selected the Fellows for the coming year, and the conference in October would be our first chance to interact with them. And since many of us would be staying in the Fellows Building, that was the same building in which the lunches were served, and so, I think, our first interaction would be with them over lunch time. And then the Director would usually arrange times, social times for us to meet with them in the afternoon. So, we were able to get acquainted with them, I think – perhaps not spend as much time as I would have liked, but certainly we were able to spend time and get to know the Junior Fellows.

AdC: And in addition to these responsibilities that you just mentioned, did the Senior Fellows Committee ever discuss larger theoretical issues when it came to pre-Columbian studies.

JSR: You mean, getting into really academic discussions about pre-Columbian issues? I guess, if that’s what you mean, the extent to which we might get involved in such discussions would be, if we were, as we were reviewing different proposals for future conferences. We might get involved in discussing themes that we thought might be pursued within the context of conferences or discuss new – what we thought might be an idea, a marginal idea for a conference, and who might be approached to organize such a conference. But within the meetings themselves, we wouldn’t have engaged in discussing, say, our ideas or evaluations of archaeological or art historical theories that might pertain to the archaeology. But outside the meetings, at dinner, or as we were walking back to where we were living, we very likely would engage in such discussions.

AdC: I guess, in addition to that, I wanted to get at sort of whether or not, as a Senior Fellows Committee, you discussed Dumbarton Oaks’s roll in pre-Columbian studies; whether or not it could expand its focus geographically into the American Southwest or temporally into the early colonial period and that sort of thing.

JSR: Yes, we did discuss that on occasion. Certainly, I think, I can’t remember the name of the conference, there was one proposal that would have involved the American Southwest, and we discussed whether or not we should encourage that and whether or not that might set a precedent that we might regret later. Also, with respect to South America, extending beyond the Andean region, which we did, and we had one conference on what’s called the ”intermediate area of Chibcha,” and that took some discussion. There were some proposals having to do with Mesoamerica that would have involved colonial, a sort of colonial theme. The proposal was good, and we went back and forth on deciding whether or not we should venture into historical periods or not. So yes, we did get involved in that, and we didn’t all agree on how to pursue that. There were aspects – I can’t remember which conference it was right now – aspects of a conference where there was going to be some historical theme, at least partly, part of the conference. And I think we managed to convince ourselves that it was justifiably included within the purview of pre-Columbian studies.

AdC: So, was it your opinion that generally these sort of expansions were good or bad?

JSR: I think they were good, yes. I’m in favor of being more inclusive.

AdC: And you – while you were a Senior Fellow, Jeffrey Quilter was the Director of Pre-Columbian Studies for that whole tenure?

JSR: That’s correct.

AdC: And how do you think he impacted the pre-Columbian program? Could you characterize his directorship?

JSR: Yes. I knew Elizabeth Boone briefly. My first interaction with Dumbarton Oaks was with Elizabeth Boone, and then at the time of the conference, and then when I became a Senior Fellow, Jeffrey had taken over, and I was really quite favorably impressed with both of them, in that both of them seemed to me people that took initiative. But of course I was working much more closely with Jeffrey. He was the person that really, I think, took a lot of initiative to try to maintain the standards, maintain the kinds of excellent programming that Dumbarton Oaks had had, to bring in some new ideas. And of course he was Director at the time when all the planning was going on for the renovations. So, he was working a lot with Ned on the aspects of the plans that would affect the Pre-Columbian Studies Program. And he would come back to the Senior Fellows Committee and discuss these with us and ask for our suggestions and our support. Not on some things. I don’t know if you know that the Fellows in Pre-Columbian Studies used to be down in the basement area, and some people found that not a very pleasant place to work without any sunshine. So, he worked quite hard to try to get some space, which they now have, which is really beautiful space, very pleasant work place in the new library. So, in that regard, with respect to the space and with respect to programming, I think Jeffrey was a good leader and good director. I’m certain he worked very well with us in the Senior Fellows Committee.

AdC: And in a similar vein, did you have much interaction with the directors of Dumbarton Oaks as a whole while you were on the Senior Fellows Committee?

JSR: With Angeliki – not much informal interaction with her. She always attended the Senior Fellows meetings. She kept more to herself than say Ned Keenan did. She mostly attended the meetings and observed and listened and would enter in occasionally, in comparison to Ned, who had at times a tendency to enter in, let’s say, a little more than he might have. But of course he was very much concerned about the new library, the renovations of the place, and would want to discuss that extensively. And also outside of the meetings, I saw that Ned took more time to try to interact with us individually.

AdC: And were there any parts of the goals of these directors, including Jeff Quilter, that you particularly liked or you particularly didn’t like?

JSR: Mmm.

AdC: You touched a little bit about the renovation of the library and gaining new space for Pre-Columbian Studies. Is there anything else that pops out in your mind?

JSR: Well, I think what I particularly liked about Jeffrey was his ability to be, to provide leadership, and to be kind of flexible about things. There was a lot of focus on the changes that were going on, and I think we learned that we weren’t going – that at some point the renovations were going to interfere with space for the symposium, so we were going to have to find another venue. It was Jeffrey that came up with the idea of going abroad and going to Peru, to set a precedent, the possibility of holding it elsewhere. So, I think, in terms of innovation, I would say that I particularly valued Jeffrey, and I can see that Joanne – I gave a talk in March at Dumbarton Oaks this year, and my first occasion to really see the inner workings of Dumbarton Oaks again – and I can see that Joanne Pillsbury has really followed on, in the footsteps of Jeffrey, in being a real leader and innovator as well, as well as continuing the tradition of hospitality of Dumbarton Oaks.

AdC: You’ve been involved with Dumbarton Oaks over a good number of years. How has the field of pre-Columbian studies at Dumbarton Oaks grown and changed since you first became involved?

JSR: It’s grown. It hasn’t really grown all that much. That was one of the concerns that we as the Senior Fellows Committee had, that in comparison to the Byzantine program, it didn’t seem like we had as large a share of fellowships as we deserved. We had always a significant excess of good applications beyond what we could offer the way of Fellows. And my impression is that that has stayed pretty much the same. We each just – in my memory, every year we asked the overall director if, with the support of Jeffrey, if it would be possible to add another fellowship or two. And so, I know they’re disappointed that that’s never happened. Although perhaps if it had been allowed grow much, it would have lost that real collegial feeling that I think the Fellows get when they’re there; a small group interacting amongst themselves. Having some of these conferences at other venues is certainly a way that it has changed, and certainly the new facilities – that’s a big change. Those are about the only things that – there probably are changes that I’m simply not aware of.

AdC: Your remark about the disparity between Byzantine and pre-Columbian brought to my mind your earlier comment about how you got to know some of the Fellows and some of the Senior Fellows in Byzantine studies. Was this while you were a Senior Fellow?

JSR: Yes, while I was a Senior Fellow. There would be some of the Byzantine scholars staying in the Fellow’s Hall, where I would stay when I went up there as a Senior Fellow. I usually stayed a couple of days afterward and arrived maybe a couple of days earlier. So, I’d spend time before the committee meeting and after the committee meeting. I might spend some time in the library doing some research of my own, and that would give me an opportunity to get to know them. And I also usually brought my wife. She usually came a long, and she’s a very outgoing person, so she would engage some of the scholars in conversation. And then I would arrive and carry on conversation with them, so it was very nice.

AdC: Is fostering more of a relationship between these different branches something that you think Dumbarton Oaks should be more invested in?

JSR: I think it’s a good idea. I find that cross-disciplinary interaction can be very stimulating, and can – when you’re interacting almost all the time with scholars in your own field, the number of new ideas becomes more and more limited. When you interact occasionally with scholars from other fields, not even archaeologists or art historians, but in the case of Byzantine studies, it would be a different region of study and a different tradition of research from pre-Columbian studies. It introduces new ideas and can be very stimulating. So, I think it, from an intellectual point of view, it’s something that Dumbarton Oaks should encourage.

AdC: How would you describe the roll Dumbarton Oaks has played in the development of pre-Columbian studies over the years, and what direction would you like to see its role take in the future?

JSR: Well, let’s see, the role, how to characterize the role of pre-Columbian studies. I think it’s set a kind of standard of scholarship that others have followed. It has focused, I think, research on particular topics and themes that otherwise might not have had that sort of focus. It’s been related to the interaction in comparisons between archaeologists working in Mesoamerica and in the Andean region. I’m thinking of some of the conferences that derived from the Dumbarton Oaks conferences that were held elsewhere at times, that were stimulated by Dumbarton Oaks. It’s provided the solid publication series, and I think I’d like to see it more or less continue in the direction that it’s been going. And I mentioned I’d like to see the number of fellowships increased, and I think that that would be an important thing for it to do. But Dumbarton Oaks has been representative of somewhat conservative – from a theoretical point of view – somewhat conservative scholarship, that is, if you look at the symposia, you don’t see a big impact of the kind of theoretical changes that occurred in archaeology from the 1960s through today. You see some influences, but you don’t see that impact. You see more what I would describe as a cultural-historical approach, and I think that’s because the archaeology has been tied partly to art history. And I think that’s a good thing because there are other venues, there are other places that have marched off in other theoretical directions. So, I like the kind of steady course that Dumbarton Oaks has kept to over the years, and I’d like to see it continue in that direction.

AdC: How important do you think outreach to Latin America will be in the future of Dumbarton Oaks – Latin American scholars and Latin American universities?

JSR: I think very important. Of course it’s hard to predict how things will develop in Latin America, but certainly the number of Latin American scholars has been increasing significantly in Latin America. The number of Peruvians, Ecuadorians, and Columbians who have gone ahead and gotten Ph.D.s and gone back to their countries is increasing. That could change again if economic conditions deteriorate. It’s also true for Mexico; that’s true for Central America, and I think that it’s very important for Dumbarton Oaks to engage those scholars or involve them. We tried over the years to be sure we had some representation among the Fellows from Latin America, not just North Americans studying in Latin America, but Latin Americans who are studying Latin American archaeology coming to Dumbarton Oaks. I think they’re pretty important, and I’d like to see some of the future conferences held in Latin America as well.

AdC: What other venues do you think might be good venues for such conferences?

JSR: Ecuador would be a good place. There are good museums that could accommodate them. Bogotá. Several places in Mexico. You could begin to get creative and hold some at some archaeological sites, but I wouldn’t like to see it happen with great frequency because I think it’s also very valuable to have them on the premises of Dumbarton Oaks. So, maybe once every five years or something like that would be what I would favor, having it somewhere else.

AdC: Well, I think you’ve answered just about all the questions I have. Is there anything else you’d like to add or any other stories or memories of your time at Dumbarton Oaks that you’d like to share?

JSR: No. I’d just like to, I guess, close by saying that, how much I enjoyed being a Senior Fellow, enjoyed all of my visits, and enjoyed the interactions and very much appreciated Dumbarton Oaks, and will continue to try to attend conferences, as I’m able.

AdC: Alright, well thank you so much for joining me today.

JSR: You’re welcome.

AdC: I appreciate it.

JSR: Well, thank you for including me in this.

AdC: Absolutely.

JSR: Alright.

AdC: Alright. Take care.

JSR: You too. Bye-bye.

AdC: Bye-bye.