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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives: Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

Introductory Information

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection External

Address: 1703 32nd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007

Telephone number: See For Researchers section of this page External

Contact information: [email protected]

Online catalog External : Search "Library Catalog" and limit location to Dumbarton Oaks

Digital Collections link External

Access Policies

Hours of service External

Open to the public External : No. Open by appointment to qualified outside scholars.

Interlibrary loan: No

Reference policy: Reference requests are accepted by telephone, email, in person

Background note:
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library exists to advance scholarship in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies through the comprehensive collection of materials in multiple media, published and unpublished; description and arrangement of those materials and presence of informed staff to ensure efficient access; exhibition of collections; and preservation of knowledge in these disciplines whether in print or digital formats for use by future generations. The Library was founded in the first half of the 20th century by Robert and Mildred Bliss, who acquired published works relating to art, history, architecture, landscape, and religion to complement their growing collection of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art.  Mr. And Mrs. Bliss donated their library and collections to Harvard University during the 1940s.


Books and monographs
Byzantine materials: The collection primarily covers the 3rd century CE to the 15th century CE, with materials printed from the 18th century to the present in all relevant languages, ancient and modern. All regions governed by, influencing, or influenced by the Byzantine Empire (antiquities and histories related to modern states/countries of Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Ukraine, as well as others in Europe and Middle East) are represented in the collections; In addition to the general collection, there are numerous, important BYZ books in Rare Book Collection, housed in the main house. The holdings related to Byzantine studies include black-and-white and full-color facsimiles of Byzantine manuscripts;, illustrated studies of Byzantine art and architecture;, early travelers' accounts;, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liturgical books;, and early printed books that contain editio princeps or historically important studies of Byzantine texts.

Pre-Columbian materials: This collection dates from the 17th century to the present. Emphases of the collection include:include religions of the indigenous people of the Americas as practiced during pre-conquest and early colonial times,; Christian evangelization of indigenous people with particular influence by the Franciscans and the Jesuits,; and studies of syncretism. There is also a strength in the pre-conquest and Christian religious art of indigenous people, with a strong focus on the Virgin Mary. Highlights of the collection include early catechisms, sermons, and confessionaries (bilingual/Nahuatl - i.e. language of the Aztecs). Confessionaries are manuals for priests to guide indigenous people in confession.

Periodicals and newspapers
Byzantine-related newsletters: The Library retains newsletters, bulletins, annual reports, membership lists, and other ephemera from select institutions and associations.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondences, and/or oral histories
The Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) at Dumbarton Oaks contains several collections that document churches and monasteries of the Byzantine era, both through fieldwork documentation and photography. The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork records and papers documents the work to restore the mosaics at Hagia Sophia as well as other significant religious buildings in Istanbul, and restoration work on the painted churches of Cyprus. The Byzantine black & white mounted photograph collection includes voluminous photo documentation of church architecture and decoration across the Byzantine empire. ICFA also holds one of only four copies of the physical catalog of the Princeton Index of Medieval Art. Now an online database, the resource existed originally as a card catalog of subjects and related images from Christian art. ICFA's Pre-Columbian collections provide extensive documentation of painted ceramics from three cultures - the Moche, Nazca, and Maya.

Manuscripts-on-Microfilm Database External
The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library holds almost two thousand microfilm reproductions (full or partial) of medieval and early modern manuscripts, the originals of which are held in institutions around the world. This database allows researchers to search for specific manuscripts represented within the collection.

Videos and sound recordings
Digitized films of Hagia Sophia and Red Sea Monasteries External

Vertical files
Byzantine & Pre-Columbian off-prints: In its early years, the library bound and provided basic cataloging for select offprints.

Please see entry for ICFA above under Archives.

Databases and/or electronic resources
Bibliography of Gender in Byzantium External
Resources for Byzantine Hagiopgraphy External
Athena Ruby Inscription Font External

Digital collections External : Includes Byzantine coins & seals, digitized rare books, illuminated manuscripts, Moche Iconography and textiles.

Other holdings not listed above
Exhibits External