5 Things That Have Surprised Me at Dumbarton Oaks

  1. The Enormous Library
    • As a Harvard student, the odds are against me being taken aback by the scope of a library; I say that in the least pretentious way possible, as I am repeatedly told that literally any book or resource I may need is accessible- a statement which has more than proven to be accurate with Harvard’s 73 libraries and over 16 million volumes. That being said, I consider Dumbarton Oaks Library to be one of the most impressive libraries I have come across.Books
    • With over 220,000 volumes (including 10,000 rare books), the sheer number of works would be impressive; however, it is not the mere statistics that astound me. It is the concentration of the books that are here. On each of the three main disciplines of study at Dumbarton Oaks: Byzantine studies, Garden and Landscape studies, and Pre-Columbian studies, you can find an extraordinary variety of books which discuss the cultural, social, political, ecological, and historical aspects of each. Quite plain and simply, it is the type of collection that researchers dream about.
  2. Pool Parties are a Thing Outside of Florida Too
    • If you look at the oral history interviews, you will see that there was a time when adherence to rules of propriety was, well, a bit less rigorously pursued. With generations of young scholars living on or near the Dumbarton Oaks campus,
      Who wouldn't want to host a party here?

      Who wouldn’t want to host a party here?

      the emergence of large (and often rowdy) social gatherings may have been somewhat inevitable. The stories of such parties, which included good food, drinks, lively music, and healthy doses of UV exposure, have become something of lore here at Dumbarton Oaks. As a South Floridian, I thought that I had left the world of bikinis and beach balls behind when I ventured away from the Sunshine State, but, between you and me, let’s just say that poolside gatherings are not solely a thing of the past- after all, times haven’t changed that much!

  3. Interesting Things are Around Every Corner
    • It is assumed that the most exciting objects in a museum are clearly designated and expressly displayed. At Dumbarton Oaks, fascinating objects seem to be everywhere: 17th century first editions of now-famous academic works (with authors’ signatures of course!) sit on the shelves of the library, mosaics grace the walls of the basement and poolside loggia, 6th Century tapestries lounge in humidity-controlled underground storage chests, and sophisticated marble statues reside peacefully in the gardens.

      If you are lost in the basement, this guy will show you the way

      If you are lost in the basement, this guy will show you the way!

  4. Academics at Dumbarton Oaks have Led Exciting Lives
    • Contrary to popular belief, scholars do more than read and write all day. Going
      Like a real-life Indiana Jones, American archaeologist Samuel K. Lothrop had regular run-ins with Nazis in Latin American hotels!

      Like a real-life Indiana Jones, American archaeologist Samuel K. Lothrop had regular run-ins with Nazis in Latin American bars!

      through accounts in the archives and reading biographies, I was startled to discover just how many adventures researchers affiliated with Dumbarton Oaks have had during the course of their work. From living in Europe during the tumult of world war to journeying through unexplored regions of South America to working as spies in territory occupied by bitter national enemies, individuals who I imagined led tiresome existences seem to have had the most thrills.

  5. Aforementioned Academics are Prone to Typos
    • Even individuals who have spent decades penning and publishing material at the cutting edge of their field make typographical errors. Looking through archival documents, I repeatedly stumble upon awkwardly corrected mistakes in letters, as their writers had limited means of correcting them using a typewriter.

      Mistakes Happen

      Mistakes Happen

    • By no means do I judge them for such slips in their compositions, without spell check most of my writing would look something like this:

this is nto a joke or exageratoin, sometmies my heed works fster than my singers fan move

  • These tiny missteps have shown me that even the most revered individuals can be flawed and prone to error at times. With this in mind, I have a better sense of their humanity as I write accounts of their lives. Often it is these inconsequentially small details which remind me that no matter how many works they may have published or how great their influence on contemporary thought, these titans of scholarship were just as human as you and I.

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