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N. C. Christopher Couch

Oral History Interview with N. C. Christopher Couch, undertaken by Bailey Trela and Alasdair Nicholson by telephone on July 29, 2014. At Dumbarton Oaks, Couch was a Junior Fellow of Pre-Columbian Studies between 1983 and 1984.

BT: I’m Bailey Trela and I’m here with my fellow intern Alasdair Nicholson. It’s the 29th of July, 2014, and we are interviewing N. C. Christopher Couch about his time at Dumbarton Oaks in the 1980s. Thanks for being here with us today.

CC: Sure.

BT: To start out, could you go through how you heard about Dumbarton Oaks, how you decided to apply?

CC: Oh, well, that wasn’t even a question. Back in those days, there were two major faculty members who taught pre-Columbian art history in the United States, Esther Pasztory and Cecelia Klein. And all of the students of those programs would apply to Dumbarton Oaks pretty much. You didn’t even hear about it, it was just part of the world.

BT: Interesting. I saw Esther Pasztory had written one of your recommendations for the program?

CC: Yep.

BT: So you were her student at Columbia?

CC: I was, yep. We used to call ourselves “the cousins.” Esther and Cecilia’s students, “the cousins.”

BT: Interesting – kind of a group there.

CC: Well, two groups. Esther’s students, and Ceclia’s students. Not one group, but we were “the cousins.” East coast, west coast; UCLA, Columbia; public, private – but both, you know, students of Douglas Fraser, and ultimately going back to Paul Wingert – with George Kubler as, you know, “Who’s your uncle?”

BT: [laughter] Could you describe some of your first impressions of Dumbarton Oaks – arriving at Dumbarton Oaks?

CC: That’s interesting. Well, it’s not like we hadn’t been there before. One had been to the conferences. That was a part of my life for many years, going to the Dumbarton Oaks conferences. So, it wasn’t like it was an unfamiliar place in any way. So, arriving there was like, coming back, but now it’s your turn. You know, you’re going to be there nine months, not just for the weekend. And of course one of the things – do you hear a buzzing on the line, or is that just on my end?

BT: I don’t think so. We’re not getting that. Is it too obtrusive?

CC: It’s stopped for the moment, but I’ll let you know if it starts up again.

BT: Okay.

CC: But, of course, we knew the collections really well: the Chavín textile, the fake Aztec mother goddess, all of those things. We knew the pieces really well; we knew the place really well. The only place I didn’t know was the room that the three of us were going to be stuck in in the basement, or the apartments. Would you mind trying to call me back in a second?

BT: Absolutely. Is it the buzzing?

CC: Yeah, just see if we can get a better connection.

BT: I believe we were talking about just arriving at Dumbarton Oaks. Could you walk us through a day as a Fellow at that time?

CC: Oh sure. Basically, I think we were all in the apartment building that was up the hill. It overlooked the Russian Embassy at that point. I remember looking at the vast array of spiky listening devices that the Soviet Union had placed on the roof of their embassy building, so that was one of the little sights and things to be commented on when we were there at Dumbarton Oaks, was the Soviet listening devices. And then just walk down the hill to Dumbarton Oaks and then basically we’d all just dive into our research all day, and break for lunch, of course, and then – lunch was fun, because a lot of times there would be people coming by. People that I specifically remember coming, some of whom I had met before and some of whom I hadn’t – Gordon Willey came by, and that was quite fun to meet him. I was close to Gordon Eckholm and Junius Bird at Natural History, speaking of like uncles, they were really mentors to all of the art history graduate students at Columbia, much more than they ever were to the anthropological-archaeological graduate students. They really liked us art historians, and we’d go over and hang out at the Natural History Museum in Dr. Eckholm’s office – but I hadn’t met Gordon Willey, so it was really wonderful to have him come by Dumbarton Oaks and talk to us a little bit about his work. Another person who came by pretty regularly was George Stuart, and you could imagine why he would come by on a regular basis, being at National Geo and having his kid as our co-Fellow there. But it was really always such a pleasure to see George come by. I remember him coming by, and I think that was the time Gordon Willey was there, and he had some amazing images of remote sensing of Maya swamps with their raised fields, and that was something I’d never seen before, because being at National Geo he was always on the cutting edge of things. Lunch was always fun. You got to be friends with the Byzantinists, and it was interesting to talk to people who were in different fields. And in the afternoons we would go back and dig into the research and then – but I don’t recall doing anything very exciting in the evenings. So, that was basically a day. You would just sit there with your work all day long, and then sometimes chat with Elizabeth Boone, which was great. It was wonderful to have her as the director, you know, such a pleasure, and I could talk more about chatting with Elizabeth.

BT: Yeah, if you could, because she’s obviously a very famous component of Dumbarton Oaks, and I’d read you were both interested in the same field – manuscript art, sixteenth century.

CC: Yeah, we did Aztec manuscripts, which she’s still doing. Me, not so much. You know what I’m doing now, right?

BT: Comparative lit?

CC: Ha! No. Well, that would be my affiliation. I do comics, graphic novels, science fiction, animation.

BT: Oh, I had seen the comic thing, yeah.

CC: I mean, I’ve gotten to be – it’s kind of interesting that one of Esther’s students would be – actually, I was just invited to do an autobiographical entry in a series that’s in the International Journal of Comic Art on founding scholars in comic studies. So, I guess I’m a founding scholar in comic studies.

BT: That’s interesting.

CC: I find it pretty interesting. And you know what? Kids like comics.

BT: Absolutely.  

CC: It’s not related to Dumbarton Oaks. We didn’t have any comic books there.

BT: [laughter] Unfortunately. So, is it comics, graphic novels – is there a broad umbrella there?

CC: Have you heard of the graphic novel Maus?

BT: Like M-A-U-S?

CC: Yeah.

BT: I’ve heard of it. I don’t know much about it.

CC: It won a Pulitzer Prize. And the author of that, Art Spiegelman, said that graphic novels are comics, but we’re too ashamed to say so.

BT: Okay.

CC: That doesn’t even mean anything to you, I can tell. Anyway, it’s a very interesting field and it’s something I really enjoy working in, and I have huge, huge classes of kids and teach at a bunch of institutions.

BT: I’ve dabbled, read Watchmen – I know the graphic novel is kind of ascendant right now.

CC: Yeah, I was Alan Moore’s editor at a comic book company I worked at.

BT: When was this?

CC: 1994–1999. I was at Kitchen Sink Press. I was his editor for a book called From Hell.

BT: So, how long or how far back does this part of your studies extend?

CC: Oh, it was completely parallel with my education as an art historian. I pursued the comics thing in tandem and made many professional connections, then when I got the chance to work in the industry I took it.

BT: What’s been the interplay between this classical training as an art historian – I assume it’s made you better at your second field?

CC: Well, most of the people that write about comics these days are English professors and English graduate students, and I would say that the difference between my approach to comics, sequential art, and their approach is that I know that comics have pictures. And they don’t seem to be able to see past the words. But never mind – strike that from the interview. [laughter] I wish that art history as a discipline would embrace comics and graphic novels, it really should, it belongs in that discipline, it’s just that art history’s too conservative to do these kind of cutting-edge fields, and that’s why I’m in comparative literature.

BT: Going back to the routine of a Fellow, you mentioned working in the basement –

CC: Oh yeah, that’s where the Fellows’ room was, you had to go downstairs, they put us down in the basement. The library, I guess, the pre-Columbian library was down – I don’t know, I haven’t been back to Dumbarton Oaks in a million years. I don’t know what the Fellows’ accommodations are like now, but I remember Elizabeth talking about “space wars” at Dumbarton Oaks – you had to fight for the space for your program, and I guess she had gotten this basement room, that was one room for all three of us. We had three desks, and sat with our backs to each other, in this kind of bullpen. I guess it was sort of like the early days of Marvel Comics, you’re in the “bullpen” – but anyway. It was perfectly pleasant, and it was wonderful to have a big portion of the pre-Columbian library there. I remember Elizabeth bought a first edition of Lorenzana’s book on Mexico City, which was really quite nice, and I remember her saying, “We have the reprints, but I think as a research institution, we really need to have the first edition.” And that was a major acquisition that she did while she was there. She was very good at building appropriate and distinguished library resources. I certainly give her a lot of credit for that.

BT: You mentioned mingling with Byzantinists – how much did you get to mingle with everybody? Obviously you had other people coming in – was there a similar feeling with the Landscape and Architecture fellows?

CC: Oh absolutely, yeah. God, what’s her name – we loved the landscape fellows, and there was a wonderful art historian, Amy, who’s last name I cannot remember. We got to be very good friends and stayed friends for some years until I kind of moved out of art history. But they were quite smart. And I would say because pre-Columbian is so close to the social sciences, but I’m sure this is way not true anymore, but I felt like we were a little bit more methodologically au courant in the pre-Columbian section, and the Byzantinists were much more traditional. They were more philological and traditional, historically oriented, and we were more interested in, and more embracing of a variety of theories, certainly even the archaeological. And Steve Wegner was the archaeological – who I’ve lost touch with, unfortunately, but he was just a lovely human being, so kind and gracious, really just a pleasure to be around. But I felt that we all were more current with some of the methodological advances in the humanities because we read archaeology, we read social science stuff. We weren’t all sitting there underlining our copies of Discipline and Punish or something, but – we were all reading Clifford Geertz, right? ‘Cause we were just up on anthropology, both the art historians and the archaeologists, but I think we were a little bit more cutting edge. But the personal relationships between the pre-Columbians and the – oh, what I was saying was, the garden history people were always very au courant and really interested in material culture studies, and archaeology was also important to them, of course, because you don’t get garden history without archaeology. So, I think we felt quite close to them, and then the Byzantinists, it was much more – there were very warm personal relationships – really nice, down-to-earth folks. I can’t really recall peoples’ names after all this time, and I didn’t keep in touch with them, but it was just a lovely, kind of informed social thing – really encouraging to each other.

BT: Something that’s always interesting is seeing how different scholars from different time periods view their field, and the evolution of the field at the time. You mentioned, obviously, pre-Columbian being close to Garden and Landscape and kind of reaching out to all these different fields, being expansive, in a sense. Do you think that was a new development in the pre-Columbian field, that it was trying to find out what exactly it was, or what direction it should move at the time?

CC: Well, I think in some sense pre-Columbian had an advantage because of the figure of George Kubler, who really embraced interesting theoretical parts of art history. His own work, The Shape of Time, is a major theoretical contribution to art history and something that really was in harmony with studies as disparate as material culture and Raymond Williams – that book fits right into that universe. So, I think that really helped, and that’s been part of pre-Columbian art history, because of Kubler. Because he was so personally interested in theory, he opened up a lot of this – and you know his work has had a huge impact on all the theoretical work, like the stuff that Esther has done that ranges far beyond pre-Columbian, in the past twenty, twenty-five years, all the amazing things she’s done. And Cecelia Klein also is a very forward-looking scholar, who read Derrida before most of the field was reading that kind of thing. And always, always someone who was really fascinating and produced very sophisticated students. So yeah, I think pre-Columbian had an early advantage over some of the other disciplines in art history, I think.

AN: I’ve heard the name Cecelia Klein come up a few times. Obviously she’s quite a well-known person in the world of Dumbarton Oaks. Would you be able to maybe speak more about her? – your recollections? – any personal anecdotes?

CC: You know, I never got to know Cecelia that well, as much as I liked her, because she was on the west coast, and I never went out there, and she didn’t come east that much. So, actually, no. I’m sorry.

AN: No problem.

CC: And where are you from?

AN: I’m out of Australia.

CC: Ah, okay, excellent. They love pop culture in Australia. I have two really dear friends who I see every year at pop culture from Australia.

AN: It certainly is very big. I know Comic Con in Melbourne a few months ago was very popular.

CC: You have a very lively graphic novel scene in Melbourne. My friend Bruce Mutard is central to that scene and actually did a documentary film about it.

AN: I’ve dabbled in it, in an amateur way, but it’s not something I ever really investigated too thoroughly.

CC: You should track down this movie; it’s quite good. We actually hosted him here in western Massachusetts and we had a showing of the documentary and a panel discussion at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

AN: Fantastic. I’ll make sure to have a look into it.

CC: Yeah, please do. You’ll be gratified with the quality of the work that you find. But that’s far from pre-Columbian art.

BT: Right. Back to socialization. What were some of the standard events that were held to bring people together? Teas? Sherries?

CC: Oh yeah, sherry in the afternoon – port and cigars in the war room. I don’t think the sherry was ever very good, as I recall, unfortunately, but I guess when you’re that age, a graduate student, it doesn’t matter if the sherry’s good or not. But I don’t think anyone ever drank enough of it to really get your tongues flowing or wagging or anything, cause it really was kind of bitter and not that great. But it was a nice social occasion. I can’t remember what conference it was that year, but we had a very large dinner at Dumbarton Oaks, with – I guess we had Miguel León-Portilla, who came up from Mexico, so he was like our guest of honor. I remember sitting with Betsy Smith, Mary Elizabeth Smith, who was the mistiquista, the Mystic Maze ghost specialist who I really got to be very good friends with – my wife and I both loved her a whole lot. So, that was a big social occasion. But actually, my main memory of that is – you probably have no idea who The Residents are, a musical group from San Francisco, who are like a descendent of the San Francisco Mime Troupe?

BT: No.

CC: Okay, well, The Residents are just a spectacularly important group of the – they were as important on the west coast as Black Flag, if that means anything to you? No, it doesn’t. How old are you guys? Never mind! Don’t answer that! Okay, well, they were as culturally important in some ways as The Ramones. I had never seen The Residents, and they actually performed in Washington, D.C. on the night of this big pre-Columbian dinner, and I was so frustrated. You know: “Am I gonna see The Residents, or Miguel León-Portilla?” Of course, I had to pick Miguel León-Portilla. And all my friends came down from New York – I used to spend a lot of time as a graduate student at a club called CBGB’s. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it?

BT: No.

CC: You haven’t?!

BT: Heebie-jeebies?

CC: C-B-G-B’s.

AN: Sounds like it’s got quite a reputation.


BT: Yeah.

CC: Well the bands that I saw there were, like, The Ramones, Blondie, The Talking Heads – perhaps you’ve heard of some of these folks?

BT: Oh yeah, just all of them.

CC: Yeah, I was there when the punk scene was beginning, as a graduate student, so I would go to graduate school during the week, and then I spent a lot of weekend evenings at CBGB’s. So, it was lot of fun. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, I was just frustrated that The Residents, the best band from the west coast that I’d never seen, did an east coast appearance the same night as a big dinner at Dumbarton Oaks. But there was a – socially Dumbarton Oaks was wonderful, it really was. I felt like there was – you would expect all these people to have sharp academic elbows and everything, but there was none of that. Everyone was really kind and supportive. I was working on manuscripts done by missionaries, like my main manuscript was by a Dominican, and I remember having – you could have conversations about doctrinal and religious-historical issues with the Byzantinists that would be quite rewarding. So, that was really quite wonderful. There was a lot of cross – there was a generosity across the disciplines that I really appreciated.

BT: How much interaction would you have had with the then-director Giles Constable?

CC: Oh, very little. He was always a gracious presence at public events, but I felt that he was really much more engaged with the Byzantinists and held the pre-Columbians at a distance. Certainly he was professional in every way, but I don’t think he had any interest in us, or what we did.

BT: Speaking of symposia, are there any conferences or symposia at the time, or obviously before you became a Fellow – you mentioned going to a couple – are there any in particular that stand out to you?

CC: Boy. This is like thinking back to the Paleolithic in some ways. No. Actually – I’ll just say no. I enjoyed them, personally. I remember going to one on, gosh, the Chavín. Let me see – I’ll tell you some anecdotes, how’s that?

BT: Sounds fair.

CC: One of my favorite afternoons was – there was a gallery on the – you know how the collections at Dumbarton Oaks were put together, right?

BT: Mhm.

CC: So, they were all buccaneers back in the day, right? So, there was a gallery on the west coast called the Stendahl Gallery, which was one of the major important conduits for pre-Columbian art from Mexico into the hands of collectors in the United States. And I remember one afternoon Elizabeth Boone reading some letters from Mr. Stendahl to – oh, what’s his name, the guy that founded Dumbarton Oaks?

BT: Bliss?

CC: Yes! Bliss! Mr. Bliss. Because basically Stendahl was in Mexico with the diggers who were like, this was back in the ’40s I guess. Basically, they went down to Mexico and dug the stuff up and shipped it back to Los Angeles, which of course contravened the laws of Mexico, but there was nothing like the – you know, although laws protecting the patrimony of Mexico go back to the 1890s, there really was very little enforcement and any huge amount of interest in protecting the archaeological objects in the ground until the 1960s, when Mexico became much more – they passed much more strict laws protecting the archaeological patrimony, and did greater enforcement of removing materials from Mexico. But this was a charming letter from Mr. Stendahl to Mr. Bliss about how the field season was going, and what the diggers were finding, and these are not archaeologists, these are basically looters who are providing materials to the Stendahl Gallery, and so she just read us this charming letter recounting the finds that were coming out of the ground in West Mexico and what nice objects he was getting for the gallery and how he was looking forward to showing them to Mr. Bliss. Because he wanted to buy them for this Dumbarton Oaks collection, as it would become. So, that was quite an interesting afternoon. And I actually met Mr. Stendahl’s son, at one point, and discussed with him the freewheeling days of the pre-Columbian art business. The wheels are a lot less free these days, I should think. So, that was kind of a fun anecdote. I also loved swimming in the pool. That was so great, cause I loved swimming, and it was just so great to have this pool, that the public absolutely has never – can have or anything. There was always a little thrill of swimming in the pool. Like there was something – there was a little frisson of exclusivity and transgressiveness, swimming in the pool that the public could only stare at when they got their tours in the afternoons or on weekends or whatever. Actually, another little anecdote: One of the Byzantinists told me that he was hanging out in front of Dumbarton Oaks and a young couple came up to him and said that they had – I guess it was after their prom? They had come to Dumbarton Oaks and crawled over the fence and gone skinny-dipping in the pool at Dumbarton Oaks, and that it was a wonderful end to the evening of their prom, and they just wanted to tell someone from Dumbarton Oaks how much they enjoyed it and say thank you.

AN: The pool is still getting quite a bit of use these days, thought I think most people are traditionally clothed.

CC: [laughing] Excellent. Do they still use that apartment building up the hill to house the Fellows, or do they have different housing?

BT: There’s new housing, it’s on 30th street. And I think we use the old building, it’s not coming to me what for. But there has been a move.

CC: There were a couple of legends of Dumbarton Oaks at the time that I was there. One of them was the compact stacks were relatively new at that time. And there was a – I guess there was not an urban legend, although no name was attached to this, perhaps you’ll hear this story or have heard this story, but I think it was one of the Byzantine fellows – the story was that instead of working on his dissertation he spent his year writing a murder mystery set at Dumbarton Oaks, and the murder weapon was the compact stacks. [laughing] That’s an anecdote I’ve always enjoyed. And then another: You know, it can be lonely and difficult to be doing research on a doctoral dissertation, right? So, we were at lunch one day discussing the fact that one of the Fellows who had had some, well, distress, perhaps, that they had vandalized their apartment, in a sense, by painting a tree on the wall, which just had a – it was done in black and white and it only had a few leaves on it. So, I informed the assembled lunch members that that tree was in my apartment. I had gotten the apartment with the sad leafless tree painted in gray.

BT: Not a good augur.

CC: I had a great year. It was fabulous in every way. It was just funny to have the tree of Fellow distress painted on my wall. As I say, it was a warm and rewarding place to be, in many ways.

BT: Obviously you talked about being big into the music scene outside of Dumbarton Oaks, but do you have any recollections of the Friends of Music program?

CC: Nope, nothing.

BT: You interacted with Elizabeth Boone a lot – do you have any impressions of the tertulias she was famous for?

CC: Boy, was she doing those when I was there?

BT: I believe so.

CC: No. I don’t remember any outstanding conversations, or anything like that. I mean, with assembled scholars or anything. I guess one of the things that meant a lot to me there was to meet Marion Stirling. I don’t know if that name – are you guys pre-Columbianists?

BT: No, we’re interns. We’re undergraduates at Harvard.

CC: Oh, all right. Well, the Olmec site of La Venta was dug by Matthew Stirling, who was working for the Smithsonian Institution. And that’s a legendary excavation. I mean, my god, it brought us the Olmec, the first time one of the sites had been excavated – dug out the colossal heads and stuff. There’s a famous picture of Marion Stirling sitting on one of the colossal heads, half-excavated, laying on its back with the soil pulled back from it and Marion’s sitting on it, giving you scale for the size of this colossal head. And I still show that in my courses. And it was just so wonderful to meet her. She was this lovely, gracious, wonderful woman. I just really bonded with her. It was nice to say, “Oh, it must have been so exciting there in the jungles, Veracruz, and seeing all these things for the first time.” That was really a thrill, to meet her and other people. And, perhaps I was there the year they had the Templo Mayor conference? I’m not even sure. I guess I could look on the interweb. But that might have been fun. Oh, I’ll tell you my other anecdote. You guys are familiar with the sculpture of – I mean, she has various names – the Aztec mother goddess. It’s in the Indiana Jones movie and everything, right? So, at one conference, again Gordon Eckholm from the Natural History Museum was there, and he always believed that that object was a nineteenth-century forgery, which I concur, and that’s part of an intellectual construct that Esther Pasztory did on – I guess the famous article is “Three Aztec Masks of the God Xipe,” where she showed that some of the famous Aztec Xipe masks are forgeries done for people like Alexander von Humboldt. They were done in the eighteenth century to create a luxury object to be sold in Europe, and that mother goddess is probably one of the same. And I remember standing next to Gordon Eckholm as he pointed out the awkwardnesses in the striations and the hair that never would have been done by any Aztec greenstone lapidarist, and indicated the inauthenticity of this object. So, that was quite fun.

BT: Yeah, I’d heard that Esther Pasztory was a leading figure in – well, not believing the birth goddess was real.

CC: Well, Dr. Eckholm had – he was wonderful at authenticating and dis-authenticating objects. I did what I think is still the only show of pre-Columbian masks that’s ever been done at the American Society, and he was wonderful giving me advice about what was real. Oh, wait a minute, no, that’s not right. I did that because, no – how did that work out? Yes, he helped me with that show and then later on I did a show at Natural History because he had passed away and they needed someone to step in and do this show. And then, going through the records, it was like – well, anyway, that’s not about Dumbarton Oaks. But it was wonderful to be part of that circle with Dr. Bird and Dr. Eckholm and Marion Stirling, and really be able to talk to the people who – and Gordon Willey founded pre-Columbian archaeology in the Americas. It was just amazing.

BT: Well, I think you’ve answered most of our questions.

CC: Well, we need to talk about the day that David Stuart got the MacArthur.

BT: Right! That totally slipped my mind.

CC: Well, it doesn’t slip my mind. ‘Cause Steve Wegner and I were there when he got the phone call; it came to the office. So, that was quite stunning, and then there was the explosion of publicity and everything like that, and so it was fun. And we were really proud of David and, as friends with his parents – you know, he was someone who was close to Linda Schele, who really is one – as an art historian, she’s someone that we’re all very proud of. He’d been mentored by Merle Greene Robertson, who we all love and who I’d seen at a million conferences and stuff like that. So, in some ways it was like a member of the family – of the art history family – got this thing. I mean, I know that he’s an archaeologist and everything like that, but he was really in most ways closer to the art historians, and art historians that we cared about, so that was really nice, for me and for all of us in art history. I can’t remember exactly how this happened, but I think David’s desk was in the middle – like I was on one side and Stephen was on the other, and David was in the middle, so in the bullpen. And I think one day we were at some event, and Steve stepped in between me and David and said, “Maybe if I stand in the middle here, lightening will strike me.” Anyway, it was pretty exciting, but I thought Steve’s line was the best comment on the thing. And also we were all quite funny, I thought. There was a lot of humor, us in the pre-Columbian section. I thought we were all pretty happy, we had very pleasant jokes like that, “Maybe lightening will strike me.” We were cheery, and then the Byzantinists had such dark, cynical humor – it was just so perfect. [laughing] You know, Byzantine as an adjective – well, they’ve got that down.

BT: David wouldn’t have – he was living at home at the time?

CC: Oh yeah. I mean, he was what, sixteen? Or fifteen? I don’t know.

BT: Incredibly young. Thanks for reminding us about that.

CC: Oh no, no. It was a major event of the year there.

BT: I assume he’s still the youngest to receive it.

CC: I don’t think there’s any question about that, I think he’s got that one secured forever. Maybe some twelve year-old entrepreneur or microloan manager in India will get it some day or something, but I think he’s basically pretty safe with that particular record.

BT: Any more questions, Alasdair?

AN: I think we’ve covered a lot.

BT: Yea, I can’t thank you enough, this was very entertaining. We’ll transcribe this, and we could send that your way.

CC: Oh, I would love that, of course, yeah. I tried to give you my best.

BT: They were entertaining.

CC: I will say that it was an amazingly rewarding intellectual experience, and – but I’ll just say that because I was working on Aztec manuscripts, right? Which are European books with illustrations by Aztec artists, they’re codices, really, European-style codices in the screenfold mansucripts like the traditional things. I wrote three incredibly dense chapters of my dissertation that dealt with all of those issues, and a lot of the issues that dealt with the religious part of the history of the Dominican order, and their religious outlook. And Dumbarton Oaks was the perfect place to do that work. I finished the dissertation later, when I was back at Columbia doing the kind of more art historical and interpretative things, but I really felt that the multi-disciplinary atmosphere at Dumbarton Oaks, with the pre-Columbian and the Byzantine and the kind of dedicated library resources and everything made those chapters really amazing. Well, I’m not boasting about them, but I’m just saying, it was the perfect place to do that kind of cross-disciplinary work, and for my dissertation working on these books, these illustrated books that mixed pre-Columbian and European, and European religion and Aztec religion and things like that. It just felt so perfect to be at Dumbarton Oaks to do that.

BT: And you had the Library of Congress too.

CC: Yes. There were some amazing things there as well. But really, the in-house library at Dumbarton Oaks was so helpful, to just be able to walk over and get books on European book illustration, or books on the religious orders or things like that. It was just perfect for what I was doing. Couldn’t have been better.

BT: Yeah, I think that’s a wonderful place to end. Like I said, thank you so much for doing this.

CC: My pleasure. It was really fun, and track down those Melbourne graphic novels.

AN: I will.

BT: Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff we need to look up – bit of an education.

CC: Well, that’s my job. But thanks so much. This was really fun.

BT: Thank you.