Oral History Project Redux

It’s hard to believe that our internships are already drawing to a close…

…would be far too easy of an opening for our final blog post about the Oral History Project. But it is hard to believe! Gabriela and I have learned a tremendous amount this summer, about Byzantine, pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies, about Dumbarton Oaks, and about oral history – which is not the history of mouths and the cultural construction thereof in different historical contexts. Just clearing that up.

After a few months of transcribing and editing, our website now boasts 23 published interviews, with more to follow before long. The website is already a valuable resource – if we do say so ourselves – for the history of D.O., of the scholars it has hosted, and of the disciplines it has enriched.

We were both happy to share some of our favorite excerpts from the interviews we’ve worked on during our presentations on Wednesday. Gabriela talked about the evolution of the pre-Columbian program at D.O. (interviews with all of the directors of pre-Columbian Studies in the history of Dumbarton Oaks are now published and available on our website!)

In her interview, Betty Benson describes the challenges of moving the Pre-Columbian collection to the Phillip Johnson wing in 1963:
“When I first went into the building with Mr. Thatcher – as I called him then – and he took me around, and I said, ‘It’s a beautiful building. How do you put anything in it?’”

Erik talked about the late Byzantinist Alexander Kazhdan, as he appears in different people’s interviews. Be on the look-out for our interview with Musja Kazhdan, Alexander’s wife, coming to an Oral History Project website near you soon.

Michael McCormick fondly recalls Alexander Kazhdan’s 60th birthday party at Dumbarton Oaks.

But aside from the website (and in case you missed it: website, website, website), which is the main tangible (in that weird internet way) result of our work, we hope that this project also contributes to a more general sense of Dumbarton Oaks as an institution that cares deeply about – and is proud of – its own past.

So, as our internships will soon become no more than (oral?) history, both of us would like to thank everyone here who has helped make our summer at D.O. such a great experience and who are surely creating some very interesting stories for future oral histories.

Now go read some interviews!


About Us

Erik Fredericksen graduated from Harvard College this past spring, with a concentration in Classics.

Gabriela Santiago is a recent graduate of Harvard College in History  of Art and Architecture.

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