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Collection MS.BZ.014 - Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Census Project, ca. 1930s-1980s
Reports

Identity area

Reference code

US DDO-ICFA MS.BZ.014

Title

Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Census Project, ca. 1930s-1980s

Date(s)

  • ca. 1930s-1980s (Creation)

Level of description

Collection

Extent and medium

Approximately 115 boxes and 50 binders of photographs and documents

Context area

Name of creator

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (1940-Present)

Administrative history

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

Bellinger, Louisa (1900-1968)

Biographical history

Textile specialist. Born in Syracuse, N.Y, Bellinger received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1926. From 1938-1944, Bellinger worked on the Census of Byzantine Textiles at Dumbarton Oaks, continuing her affiliation with the institute through the 1950s as a research fellow. From 1946-1964, Bellinger served as a curator-analyst for the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.

Name of creator

Dow, Elizabeth (1911-2000)

Biographical history

Dow administered the Census of Byzantine and Early Christian Objects in North American Collections from 1938 to 1943, with the assistance of textile specialist Louisa Bellinger from 1939 to 1942. In 1942, Dow married William Kendrick Pritchett, professor, historian and epigrapher of Classical Greek.

Born in Kennebunk, Maine, Dow graduated from Radcliffe College and New York University, receiving a BA in Art History/Classics and later an MA in Art History. In addition to working at Dumbarton Oaks, she was a research assistant to the renowned paleographer E.A. Lowe at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the staff of the University of California at Berkeley's Doe Library. She was the sister of Sterling Dow.

Name of creator

Bonajuto, Fanny (active mid 20th century)

Biographical history

Bonajuto administered the Census of Byzantine and Early Christian Objects in North American Collections from 1956-1966.

Name of creator

Bliss, Robert Woods (1875-1962)

Biographical history

"Robert Woods Bliss was born in 1875 in St. Louis, Missouri, where his father, William Henry Bliss, was US District Attorney. He graduated from Harvard University in 1900 and began a distinguished career as a Foreign Service officer and diplomat. He eventually served as Ambassador to Argentina (1927–33).

Mildred Barnes Bliss was born in New York City in 1879 to Anna Dorinda Blaksley and Demas Barnes, who had invested in the patent medicine Fletcher's Castoria, the phenomenal success of which made him a wealthy man. When Barnes died in 1888, his wealth passed to his wife and their only child, the nine-year-old Mildred. The second marriage of Anna Barnes to William Bliss in 1894 brought Mildred and Robert together, and they themselves married in 1908.

Robert Bliss's career brought the Blisses to Paris in 1912. There they became friends with a circle of Americans, including the artist Walter Gay, the author Edith Wharton, and Mildred Bliss's childhood friend, the historian, diplomat, and banker Royall Tyler. Tyler introduced the Blisses to Parisian art dealers and sparked their passion for collecting, especially Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art. In Paris, Mildred Bliss began to support musicians and host musical evenings.

In 1920, the Blisses purchased the Georgetown property that they named Dumbarton Oaks. Their redesign of the house and the creation of gardens—directed by landscape designer Beatrix Farrand—made Dumbarton Oaks one of the outstanding residences of Washington. In 1940, the Blisses offered Harvard University the gift of Dumbarton Oaks, with its grounds, buildings, library, and art collections. Robert Bliss died in 1962, and Mildred Bliss in 1969." -http://www.doaks.org/about/dumbarton-oaks-history/bliss-history

Name of creator

Bliss, Mildred Barnes (1879-1969)

Biographical history

"Mildred Barnes Bliss was born in New York City in 1879 to Anna Dorinda Blaksley and Demas Barnes, who had invested in the patent medicine Fletcher's Castoria, the phenomenal success of which made him a wealthy man. When Barnes died in 1888, his wealth passed to his wife and their only child, the nine-year-old Mildred. The second marriage of Anna Barnes to William Bliss in 1894 brought Mildred and Robert together, and they themselves married in 1908.

Robert Bliss's career brought the Blisses to Paris in 1912. There they became friends with a circle of Americans, including the artist Walter Gay, the author Edith Wharton, and Mildred Bliss's childhood friend, the historian, diplomat, and banker Royall Tyler. Tyler introduced the Blisses to Parisian art dealers and sparked their passion for collecting, especially Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art. In Paris, Mildred Bliss began to support musicians and host musical evenings.

In 1920, the Blisses purchased the Georgetown property that they named Dumbarton Oaks. Their redesign of the house and the creation of gardens—directed by landscape designer Beatrix Farrand—made Dumbarton Oaks one of the outstanding residences of Washington. In 1940, the Blisses offered Harvard University the gift of Dumbarton Oaks, with its grounds, buildings, library, and art collections. Robert Bliss died in 1962, and Mildred Bliss in 1969." -http://www.doaks.org/about/dumbarton-oaks-history/bliss-history

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The collection was started in 1936 by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss to provide visual and documentary reference material for the study of objects in their art collection. The Census project was administered by Elizabeth Dow (later Elizabeth Dow Pritchett) from 1938 to 1943, with the assistance of textile specialist Louisa Bellinger from 1939 to 1942. Bellinger worked independently on the related Census of Byzantine Textiles in North American Collections. Work on the Census resumed in the mid-1950s through 1966; the Census was added to as late as the mid-1980s.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The Census of Objects of Early Christian and Byzantine Art in North American Collections contains over 11,000 mounted black-and-white photographic prints of Byzantine objects in North American collections, both public and private. Documentation sheets for each object are located in loose-leaf notebooks. The research conducted by textile specialist Louisa Bellinger, "Census of Byzantine Textiles in North American Collections," resulted in an additional 2,500 black-and-white photographs of Byzantine textiles located in museums in the United States and Canada. The collection also includes the research materials Louisa Bellinger compiled in her work on the Textile Census, including correspondence, object reports, photographs, negatives, slides and 8 mm films.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Accruals

System of arrangement

Photographs are filed by medium, stylistic and chronological characteristics, and region of origin. Documentation sheets are filed alphabetically by city of present location, collection, and accession number. For the corpus of Byzantine Textiles, the collection is organized alphabetically by the city and museum, and includes a card file documenting each object.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

This collection is unprocessed. For more information or for access to the collection, please consult ICFA staff.

Conditions governing reproduction

Photographs are for research and study purposes only.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

An unpublished draft finding aid is available for consultation in the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

"The Underwood Courier: An early Dumbarton Oaks Newsletter," Dumbarton Oaks Archives - http://www.doaks.org/library-archives/dumbarton-oaks-archives/underworld-courier.

Notes area

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Description control area

Description identifier

US

Institution identifier

DDO-ICFA

Rules and/or conventions used

Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)

Status

Draft

Level of detail

Minimal

Dates of creation revision deletion

This record was created by Shalimar White on January 28, 2014.

Language(s)

Script(s)

Sources

Rights area

Related right

Act

Research

Restriction

Allow

Start date

End date

Rights holder

Rights note(s)

Preferred Citation: Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Object Census Project, ca. 1930s-1980s, MS.BZ.014, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C.

Basis

Policy

Related right

Act

Publish

Restriction

Allow

Start date

End date

Rights holder

Rights note(s)

Copyright for Census research materials and photographs of objects in the Dumbarton Oaks Museum belongs to Dumbarton Oaks. However, permission to publish photographs of objects from other repositories must be obtained from the copyright holder.

Basis

Copyright

Copyright status

Under copyright

Copyright status date

Copyright jurisdiction

Copyright note

Accession area

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