Dumbarton Oaks Oral History: An Intern’s Reminiscence

Amid other auxiliary projects, my fellow Oral History intern James Curtin and I have successfully interviewed nine Dumbarton Oaks affiliates over the course of the summer: Bridget Gazzo, Natalia Teteriatnikov, Valerie Stains, Herb Kessler, Gail Griffin, Eurydice Georganteli, Justin and Barbara Kerr, and Donald Mehlman. We’re deeply grateful to each one of these people for sacrificing their time to share with us their experiences at Dumbarton Oaks over the years, and we heartily encourage you to peruse their interview transcripts (http://www.doaks.org/library-archives/dumbarton-oaks-archives/oral-history-project): each offers a distinctive, creative vision of Dumbarton Oaks that nonetheless harmonizes with the others into a synergetic whole.

Librarian for Pre-Columbian Studies Bridget Gazzo, crisply knowledgeable, discussed with us the integration of the libraries at Dumbarton Oaks, a gargantuan project the fruits of which scholars studying at the institute savor every day. Researcher and archivist Natalia Teteriatnikov gave us a glimpse into how, fueled by a deep passion for Byzantine studies, she and her colleagues accommodated the arrival of the Princeton Index at D.O., an invaluable research aid, as well as how she went about organizing the D.O. archives. The elegant Valerie Stains chatted with us about the ticket to putting together a cutting-edge, but nonetheless tasteful and enriching, concert series with the Friends of Music program. Scholar Herb Kessler charted for us the democratization of D.O. under Director Giles Constable, and also provided us with an affectionate sketch of D.O.’s oracular Joan Southcote-Aston (http://doakshistory.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/ms-joan-southcote-aston/). Director of Gardens and Grounds Gail Griffin, soft-spoken and deeply kind, took us beneath the garden’s mask of greenery and floral color to reveal the lush philosophy of gardening that puts forth the moldings of its features from behind that mask. Scholar Eurydice Giorganteli intelligently praised D.O. for providing her with the resources she needed to bloom as a scholar. Photographers Justin and Barbara Kerr shared their learned, creative love for Maya vases, as well as an eloquent description of the rollout camera, which Justin inventively applied to the process of photographing such vases. And, finally, gardener Donald Mehlman took us for a tour of the gardens in his expert shoes, renewing our appreciation for the indefatigable efforts required to keep the gardens in their pristine condition. Again, the Oral History interns’ gratitude goes out to all of you, for filling our summers to the brim with your know-how, your deep learning, your high-bouncing anecdotes, and the pleasure of your distinguished company.

 Though my colleague James has another week on the job, this will be, I’m sad to say, my last. I’ll miss the gardens and pool, I’ll miss the stimulating work; but most of all I’ll miss the friends I’ve made during my time here at Dumbarton Oaks, which has been not just a home for the humanities, but my home for the past three, good months, where I’ve always felt welcome.

James and Josh.

James and Josh.

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