@Dumbarton Oaks

Collection MS.BZ.013 - Thomas Whittemore Papers, ca. 1875-1966

Identity area

Reference code



Thomas Whittemore Papers, ca. 1875-1966


  • ca. 1875-1966 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

10 boxes of papers and photographs
1 photo album

Context area

Name of creator

Whittemore, Thomas (1871-1950)

Biographical history

Thomas Whittemore was born in Cambridgeport, MA on January 2, 1871. He received his Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Tufts College in 1894 and was appointed Instructor of English at his alma mater immediately afterwards. While at Tufts College, Whittemore taught English Composition and directed several plays, such as the masque Comus and The Pleasant Comedy of Old Fortunatus. His teaching career continued intermittently until early 1930. In 1908, Whittemore taught a course on Ancient Art at Columbia University and starting in 1927, he taught classes on the fine arts and the history of Greek, Egyptian, and Byzantine art at New York University.

In the 1910s and 1920s, Whittemore became involved in expeditions and excavation projects in Egypt and Bulgaria. In January 1911, Whittemore joined a British archaeological expedition in Egypt under the auspices of the Egypt Exploration Society [or Egypt Exploration Fund]. Based on the letters between Whittemore and Isabella Stewart Gardner, Whittemore was in Egypt in the 1910s, where he helped other archaeologists discover pre-dynastic treasures such as, kilns and “the long sought IV-V dynasty cemetery at Abydos.” In between excavation seasons, Whittemore devoted his time to humanitarian work in Bulgaria, Russia, and Paris, particularly during and after the Russian Revolution in 1917. He was an active member of the Committee for the Relief of War Refugees in Russia and the Society for Relief Work among the Orphan Children of Russia. “The goal of the organization[s were] to educate the most promising young Russians in the arts and sciences such that they could help rebuild their country.” Whittemore also travelled to Mount Athos, Greece, in 1923 with George D. Pratt, where he and Pratt delivered food and supplies to the Russian and Bulgarian monks that became impoverished after the Russian Revolution.

In the 1930s, Whittemore changed his direction and focused on the conservation and restoration of Byzantine monuments, art, and architecture in Turkey and other areas of the former Byzantine Empire. In 1930, he founded the Byzantine Institute, a non-profit organization, with the full support of several committee members, such as John Nicholas Brown, Charles R. Crane, Charles R. Morey, Matthew Prichard, George D. Pratt, John Shapley, and others. In 1931, Whittemore and the Byzantine Institute were given permission to conserve and restore the original mosaics of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, ?smet ?nönü, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Economy. As the Director of the Byzantine Institute, Whittemore carried out the negotiations with government officials in Turkey, obtained work permits, recruited skilled fieldworkers, organized fundraising events, managed the Byzantine Institute staff, and delivered fieldwork supplies from/to the various sites.

On June 8, 1950, Whittemore suffered a heart attack while on his way to a meeting in the office of John Foster Dulles, then special advisor to the Secretary of State, in Washington, D.C. He died at the age of 79 and is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

In 1993, the collection was transferred from the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library to the Byzantine Photograph and Fieldwork Archives (BPFA), now known as the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA). On May 25, 1999, additional related materials were transferred from the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. Overall, because there is little documentation, it is difficult to determine the complete acquisition history for this collection.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The bulk of the collection consists of Thomas Whittemore’s teaching materials, correspondence, printed materials (e.g., books, playbills, and pamphlets), and photographs, which were created between the late 1800s and 1950s. The items are related to Whittemore’s teaching career at Tufts College and Columbia University before he founded the Byzantine Institute in 1930. The contents also record and illustrate Whittemore’s other activities during this period, such as his trips to Europe, as well as his relationships with a number of individuals, including family, friends, colleagues, and fraternity brothers, throughout his lifetime. Collection includes an Addendum consisting of administrative and research materials - see "Notes" field below.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

This collection is divided into four series based on the content type and subject matter: Personal Papers, Correspondence, Unpublished and Printed Materials, and Photographs). The items are organized in chronological order, with undated items filed at the end of each series.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Access to the collection is unrestricted. It is available for research purposes. Appointment is required for access because researcher space is limited: http://www.doaks.org/icfa-appointment-request-form. For research queries, contact the staff of Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (icfa@doaks.org).

Conditions governing reproduction

Duplication of materials in the collection may be governed by copyright and other restrictions.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

PDF version: http://www.doaks.org/library-archives/icfa/whittemore.pdf
Harvard OASIS (Online Archival Search Information System): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:DOAK.LIB:dca00008

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

For digital copies of selected materials from this collection, see the online exhibit entitled "Before Byzantium: The Early Archaeological Activities of Thomas Whittemore (1871-1931)," http://www.doaks.org/icfa/before-byzantium/.

Related units of description

At Dumbarton Oaks:

At other institutions:

Publication note

Fedorchenko, Sofia. Ivan Speaks. Translated from the Russian by Thomas Whittemore. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919.

Whittemore, Thomas. “The Rebirth of Religion in Russia: The Church Reorganized While Bolshevik Cannon Spread Destruction in the Nation’s Holy of Holies.” The National Geographic Magazine 34, no. 5 (November 1918): 378-401.

Whittemore, Thomas, ed. Post Liminium: Essays and Critical Papers by Lionel Johnson. London: E. Matthews, 1911 and New York: M. Kennerley, 1912.

Notes area


Collection includes an Addendum, which consists of:

  • Folder 1: Document/Item Removal Forms
  • Folder 2: Copies of letters between Isabella Stewart Gardner and Thomas Whittemore, from microfilm housed at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Folder 3: Articles and copies of archival materials from other repositories, Folder 1 of 2
  • Folder 4: Articles and copies of archival materials from other repositories, Folder 2 of 2, Includes a copy of "Thomas Whittemore: An Evocation"

Access points

Name access points

Description control area

Description identifier


Institution identifier


Rules and/or conventions used

Describing Archives: A Content Standard



Level of detail



  • English



  • Constable, Giles. “Dumbarton Oaks and Byzantine Fieldwork.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 37 (1983): 171-176.
  • Klein, Holger A. “The Elusive Mr. Whittemore: The Early Years 1871-1916 - Tarifi Zor Bay Whittemore: Erken Dönem, 1871-1916.” In Kariye Camii Yeniden - The Kariye Camii Reconsidered, edited by Holger A. Klein, Robert G. Ousterhout, and Brigitte Pitarakis, 451-480. Istanbul: Araştırmaları Enstitüsü, 2011. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/arthistory/faculty/Klein/Offprint-Kariye-Camii-Reconsidered.pdf.
  • Klein, Holger A, ed. Restoring Byzantium: The Kariye Camii in Istanbul and the Byzantine Institute Restoration. New York: Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, 2004.
  • Labrusse, Rémi and Nadia Podzemskaia. “Naissance d'une vocation: aux sources de la carrière byzantine de Thomas Whittemore.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 54 (2000): 43-69.
  • Lord, Louis E. A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1882-1942. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1947.
  • MacDonald, William L. "Whittemore, Thomas." Entry in Dictionary of American Biography, suppl. 4, 1946-1950, 890-91. New York: Scribner, 1974.
  • Major, Ben. “‘The Socialite Archaeologist’ Thomas Whittemore (1871-1950) and the roles of patronage, politics, and personal connections in cultural heritage preservation.” B.A. thesis, History Department, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2010. http://history.rutgers.edu/honors-papers-2009/doc_download/209-the-socialite-archaeologist.
  • Nelson, Robert S. Hagia Sophia, 1850-1950: Holy Wisdom Modern Monument. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Sorenson, Lee. “Whittemore, Thomas.” Dictionary of Art Historians. http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/whittemoret.htm.
  • Teteriatnikov, Natalia. Mosaics of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul: The Fossati Restoration and the Work of the Byzantine Institute. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1998. http://www.doaks.org/resources/publications/doaks-online-publications/mosaics-of-hagia-sophia/sophia.pdf.

Archivist's note

In 2009, Gerrianne Schaad, former ICFA Curator, and Rebecca Bruner, former Archival Assistant, began to process the collection and draft a finding aid. This draft finding aid consisted of a historical note excerpted from the Dictionary of American Biography and an arrangement with four series: Biographical, Correspondence, Reading Materials, and Writings. The collection was primarily arranged by content type in alphabetical order. In December 2011, Rona Razon, Archivist, and Shalimar White, Manager of ICFA, agreed to revisit the collection because ICFA staff identified other archival materials in the ICFA backlog related to Thomas Whittemore’s personal papers. To make the collection more easily accessible and comprehensible, ICFA staff decided to re-arrange the collection by content type in chronological order, rather than alphabetical order. This revised arrangement highlights the history of Whittemore’s teaching career in the early 1900s at Tufts College and his activities and whereabouts during the First World War. Additionally, ICFA staff redefined the collection arrangement with four series (Personal Papers, Correspondence, Unpublished and Printed Materials, and Photographs) that clearly identify the types of material represented in the collection and their relationship with the creator. The revised finding aid, collection arrangement, and processing were completed by Razon in August 2012; the finding aid was edited by White in September 2012.

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Rights note(s)

Preferred Citation: Thomas Whittemore Papers, ca. 1875-1966, MS.BZ.013, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C.



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Rights note(s)

Copyright for Thomas Whittemore materials belong to Dumbarton Oaks. However, permission to publish materials created by other correspondents must be obtained from the copyright holder.



Copyright status

Under copyright

Copyright status date

Copyright jurisdiction

Copyright note

Digital object metadata



Media type





191.6 KiB


October 24, 2016 7:31 AM

Digital object (Master) rights area

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Digital object (Thumbnail) rights area

Accession area