- ca. 1950 (Accumulation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Approximately 10,000 black and white photographs of manuscript illuminations
Name of creator
Robert and Mildred Bliss retired to their Georgetown home, Dumbarton Oaks, in 1933. They began adding to their already extensive collection of artwork and reference books, anticipating the creation of a research institute. In 1940, the Blisses gave their property to Harvard University, creating Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
"Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is an institute in Washington, DC, administered by the Trustees for Harvard University. It supports research and learning internationally in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies through fellowships and internships, meetings, and exhibitions. Located in residential Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks welcomes researchers at all career stages who come to study its books, objects, images, and documents. It opens its doors to the public to visit its historic Gardens, designed by Beatrix Farrand; its Museum, with world-class collections of art; and its Music Room, for lectures and concerts. The institute disseminates knowledge through its own publications (such as Dumbarton Oaks Papers and symposium volumes) as well as through the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (published by Harvard University Press). Dumbarton Oaks also makes accessible ever more of its resources freely online." -http://www.doaks.org/about
Among its many other activities, in January of 1963, Dumbarton Oaks and the trustees of Harvard University assumed all fieldwork activities formerly initiated by the Byzantine Institute. Dumbarton Oaks directed and sponsored new fieldwork projects in Turkey (Church of St. Polyeuktos), Cyprus (Church of the Panagia Amasgou at Monagri), Syria (Dibsi Faraj), and present-day Macedonia (Bargala).
Name of creator
Arax Der Nersessian was the older sister of Armeno-Byzantine art historian Sirarpie Der Nersessian. Like her sister, Arax Der Nersessian was raised and educated amongst an elite Armenian community in early twentieth-century Constantinople, orphaned as a teenager, and forced to flee to Western Europe during the persecutions against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
She was considered artistically gifted and attended the École des Beaux-Arts and the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, where the sisters first settled after leaving Turkey. In 1919 the two moved to Paris where Arax Der Nersessian married her long-time fiancé and distant cousin, architect Zareh Der Nersessian. Separated during the war years, the sisters were reunited in 1947 when Arax moved to Washington DC to live with Sirarpie Der Nersessian after being widowed.
Arax Der Nersessian often served as Sirarpie Der Nersessian’s research assistant, helping with the catalog for the Chester Beatty collection (1958) and on her sister’s 1951-1952 sabbatical to Jerusalem to study the manuscripts of the Armenian Patriarchate, for which Arax Der Nersessian is credited with photographing the manuscripts and making an inventory of the over 2,500 images, which Sirarpie Der Nersessian then contributed to the Dumbarton Oaks’ photograph collection.
Arax Der Nersessian returned to Paris with her sister in 1963 upon Sirarpie Der Nersessian’s retirement from Dumbarton Oaks, where she lived until her death following a long and painful illness, sometime between 1981 and 1989. She is considered to have been Sirarpie Der Nersessian’s closest friend and companion throughout both of their lives.
Name of creator
The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections.
The Library's mission is to support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Photographs of manuscripts held by the Greek and Armenian Patriarchates in Jerusalem, Mount Athos and St. Catherine's in the Sinai Peninsula were acquired from the Library of Congress following documentation projects in 1949-1950 and 1952-1953.
The majority of the photographs of illuminations from the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem along with images from Aleppo, Antilias and Istanbul were taken by Arax Der Nersessian, sister of Armeno-Byzantine art historian, Sirarpie Der Nersessian, during the latter's 1951-1952 sabbatical.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
- Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs, 1939-1966, MS.BZ.005. Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives. (Includes negatives of illuminations in 34 manuscripts from the Matenadaran in Erevan, Armenia, housed in ICFA cold storage)
- Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs, 1929-2002, OP.BZ.SDN. Dumbarton Oaks Archives.
- Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs, 1929-2002 (DOA)
- Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs, 1939-1966 (ICFA)
- Hans Belting Research Papers and Photographs, ca. 1960s-1980s
- Kurt Weitzmann Photographs of Manuscripts, 1980s-1990s
- Arthur Kingsley Porter Photographs of Architecture and Manuscripts, 1980s
Kenneth Willis Clark. Checklist of Manuscripts in the St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai: Microfilmed for the Library of Congress, 1950. Washington: Library of Congress, 1952.
Kenneth Willis Clark. Checklist of Manuscripts in the Libraries of the Greek and Armenian Patriarchates in Jerusalem: Microfilmed for the Library of Congress, 1949-1950. Washington: Library of Congress, 1953.
Ernest W. Saunders. A Descriptive Checklist of Selected Manuscripts in the Monasteries of Mount Athos: Microfilmed for the Library of Congress and the International Greek New Testament Project, 1952-1953. Washington: Library of Congress, 1957.
Subject access points
Place access points
- Turkey » Istanbul
- France » Paris
- Greece » Mount Athos
- United States » District of Columbia » Washington, DC
- United States » Massachusetts » Cambridge, MA
- New York City, NY
- Italy » Florence
- Italy » Rome
- Italy » Venice
- Italy » Milan
- United Kingdom » England » London
- Russia » Moscow
- United States » Maryland » Baltimore, MD
- Greece » Athens
- Israel » Jerusalem
- United States » New Jersey » Princeton, NJ
- Italy » Naples
- Egypt » Monastery of Saint Catherine
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion