Skip to Content

75 Years/75 Objects

September 8, 2015–May 22, 2016 | Celebrating seventy-five years of Dumbarton Oaks, this exhibition presents seventy-five objects from the Dumbarton Oaks Museum’s three collections.

Celebrating seventy-five years of Dumbarton Oaks, this exhibition presents seventy-five objects from the Dumbarton Oaks Museum’s three collections. Arranged in sequences of nine themed, consecutive rotations over the course of nine months, the works on view reflect the significance of the historical anniversary year as well as the ongoing assessment of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss’ collecting passion and appreciation.



Museum work is not confined to collecting, stewardship, and display. There is also a significant obligation to advance knowledge. Each of the objects in this exhibit has benefited from past scholarly and scientific scrutiny, yet research remains an ongoing curatorial responsibility.

Curator’s Tours: September 11 and 25, 2015 | 3 p.m.


Things can be said to have biographies. An object with a long life is apt to have been damaged, repaired, divided, reunited, reworked, repurposed, or even augmented. Part of the work of specialists is to reconstruct prior states of a given object based on the evidence of the object itself, the testimony of documents, or related pieces of the puzzle that survive elsewhere.

On view October 1–25. Curator’s Tours: October 2 and 16, 2015 | 3 p.m.


Collecting art is a passion. For Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, the founders of Dumbarton Oaks, this passion was lifelong. Although they collected broadly—from cultures as diverse as the ancient Chinese to the modern French—they collected with discrimination and taste, with particular focus on Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art. When possible, the Dumbarton Oaks Museum continues to collect in the spirit of its founders.

On view November 1–29. Curator’s Tours: November 6 and 20, 2015 | 3 p.m.


Researchers are constantly learning about the past. In some cases, exciting new discoveries can transform old ways of thinking about objects, places, and even entire eras. As a center for scholarship that brings together specialists in Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape studies, Dumbarton Oaks stands at the forefront of reinterpreting and revisiting past cultures and historical periods.

On view December 3–January 3, 2016. Curator’s Tours: December 4 and 18, 2015 | 3 p.m.


An ethical obligation of every museum is the preservation of the legacy entrusted to it. Conservation work is crucial for maintaining a collection for generations to come. A task once performed by artists, conservation evolved in the twentieth century with the introduction of science to understand the causes and process of decay. Today conservators aim to keep objects as close to their original condition as possible, while reducing the rate of deterioration of a work of art.

On view January 5–31. Curator’s Tours: January 6 and 29, 2016 | 3 p.m.


While much of art history concerns itself with exceptional or singular pieces, many objects in museum collections were manufactured as pairs, multiples, and even serially produced artworks. The objects in this exhibit have been reunited after following parallel or sometimes entirely divergent paths. Their trajectories have brought them back together here after spending decades apart.

On view February 2–28. Curator’s Tours: February 5 and 19, 2016 | 3 p.m.


While some artworks came to the Dumbarton Oaks collections already extensively researched and published, many more pieces entered the collection without much accompanying information, raising the basic question, “What is this?” The pieces in this exhibit represent instances where the usual art historical methods focused on attribution or function have resulted in pondering dead-ends.

On view March 3–27. Curator’s Tours: March 4 and 18, 2016 | 3 p.m.


Artist? Date? Subject? Authenticity? An important aspect of curating a museum’s collection is trying to answer outstanding questions about the origin and authenticity of artworks. This exhibition presents works that have posed such questions, some of which have been answered, while others remain open to debate.

On view March 31–April 24. Curator's Tours: April 1 and 15, 2016 | 3 p.m.


The act of revealing makes visible what was hidden, it gives away what was unknown before. To witness transformation is the intended and inherent concept of a revealing design that invites wonder and discovery. Both the object and the viewer’s mind become transformed. Most of the works displayed here have a built-in, concealed interior that is not visible at first glance. By operating the object, a transformation occurs, and sometimes the action of revealing exposes an unseen, inner reality. Part of the creative task of exhibitions is to use both interpretive and physical display techniques that invite the visitor to experience these moments of revelation.

On view April 28–May 22. Curator’s Tours: May 6 and 20, 2016 | 3 p.m.