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Before Byzantium: The Early Activities of Thomas Whittemore (1871-1931)

17 August 2013

The Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) presents Before Byzantium: The Early Activities of Thomas Whittemore (1871-1931): This online exhibition focuses on Thomas Whittemore’s activities prior to founding of the Byzantine Institute in 1930. Bringing together three of ICFA’s archival collections—The Thomas Whittemore PapersEarly Archaeological Projects Associated with Thomas Whittemore, and The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork Records and Papers—this exhibit focuses on Whittemore himself as its common thread and aims to illustrate how his early and mid-life experiences enabled him to create and sustain the organization that would subsequently breathe life into the field of Byzantine studies.

Before Byzantium features four sets of photographs, taken between the 1910s and early 1930s, which document Whittemore’s activities in Egypt and Greece, as well as the Byzantine Institute’s first fieldwork project at the monasteries of St. Paul and St. Anthony along the Red Sea. These black-and-white photographs depict excavation sites and monasteries, along with local workmen, archaeologists, monks, scholars, and Whittemore himself. The images are contextualized within an intricate narrative that traces Whittemore’s evolution from an English professor, amateur archaeologist, and humanitarian to the founder and director of the Byzantine Institute. In addition, there is an interactive map to enable users to visualize where Whittemore travelled and worked at the beginning of his multi-faceted professional career. 

This exhibit was created and made possible by our talented intern, Caitlin Ballotta (Summer 2012), and edited by Rona Razon, ICFA Archivist, and Shalimar White, ICFA Manager. The ICFA team would like to give special thanks to the Dumbarton Oaks Publications Department for their time, assistance, ideas, and support for this project, as well as a number of scholars, librarians, and archivists, who assisted us with our research.

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