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Whittemore, Thomas. Thomas Whittemore papers, circa 1875-1966: Finding Aid

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Harvard Library, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MS.BZ.013
Repository: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Title: Thomas Whittemore papers
Date(s): circa 1875-1966
Quantity: 1 collection
Language of materials: English

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

In 1993, the collection was transferred from the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library to the Byzantine Photograph and Fieldwork Archives (BPFA), now known as the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA). On May 25, 1999, additional related materials were transferred from the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. Overall, because there is little documentation, it is difficult to determine the complete acquisition history for this collection.

Processing Information:

In 2009, Gerrianne Schaad, former ICFA Curator, and Rebecca Bruner, former Archival Assistant, began to process the collection and draft a finding aid. This draft finding aid consisted of a historical note excerpted from the Dictionary of American Biography and an arrangement with four series: Biographical, Correspondence, Reading Materials, and Writings. The collection was primarily arranged by content type in alphabetical order. In December 2011, Rona Razon, Archivist, and Shalimar White, Manager of ICFA, agreed to revisit the collection because ICFA staff identified other archival materials in the ICFA backlog related to Thomas Whittemore's personal papers. To make the collection more easily accessible and comprehensible, ICFA staff decided to re-arrange the collection by content type in chronological order, rather than alphabetical order. This revised arrangement highlights the history of Whittemore's teaching career in the early 1900s at Tufts College and his activities and whereabouts during the First World War. Additionally, ICFA staff redefined the collection arrangement with four series (Personal Papers, Correspondence, Unpublished and Printed Materials, and Photographs) that clearly identify the types of material represented in the collection and their relationship with the creator. The revised finding aid, collection arrangement, and processing were completed by Razon in August 2012; the finding aid was edited by White in September 2012.

Conditions Governing Access:

Access to the collection is unrestricted. It is available for research purposes. Appointment is required for access because researcher space is limited: http://www.doaks.org/icfa-appointment-request-form. For research queries, contact the staff of Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (icfa@doaks.org).

Conditions Governing Use:

Duplication of materials in the collection may be governed by copyright and other restrictions.

Existence and Location of Copies:

For digital copies of selected materials from this collection, see the online exhibit entitled "Before Byzantium: The Early Archaeological Activities of Thomas Whittemore (1871-1931)," http://www.doaks.org/icfa/before-byzantium/.

Preferred Citation:

Thomas Whittemore Papers, ca. 1875-1966, MS.BZ.013, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C.

Related units of description at Dumbarton Oaks

Related units of description at other institutions

Biographical Note

Thomas Whittemore was born in Cambridgeport, MA on January 2, 1871. He received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from Tufts College in 1894 and was appointed Instructor of English at his alma mater immediately afterwards. While at Tufts College, Whittemore taught English Composition and directed several plays, such as the masque Comus and The Pleasant Comedy of Old Fortunatus. His teaching career continued intermittently until early 1930. In 1908, Whittemore taught a course on Ancient Art at Columbia University and starting in 1927, he taught classes on the fine arts and the history of Greek, Egyptian, and Byzantine art at New York University.
In the 1910s and 1920s, Whittemore became involved in expeditions and excavation projects in Egypt and Bulgaria. In January 1911, Whittemore joined a British archaeological expedition in Egypt under the auspices of the Egypt Exploration Society [or Egypt Exploration Fund]. Based on the letters between Whittemore and Isabella Stewart Gardner, Whittemore was in Egypt in the 1910s, where he helped other archaeologists discover pre-dynastic treasures such as, kilns and "the long sought IV-V dynasty cemetery at Abydos." In between excavation seasons, Whittemore devoted his time to humanitarian work in Bulgaria, Russia, and Paris, particularly during and after the Russian Revolution in 1917. He was an active member of the Committee for the Relief of War Refugees in Russia and the Society for Relief Work among the Orphan Children of Russia. "The goal of the organization[s were] to educate the most promising young Russians in the arts and sciences such that they could help rebuild their country." Whittemore also travelled to Mount Athos, Greece, in 1923 with George D. Pratt, where he and Pratt delivered food and supplies to the Russian and Bulgarian monks that became impoverished after the Russian Revolution.
In the 1930s, Whittemore changed his direction and focused on the conservation and restoration of Byzantine monuments, art, and architecture in Turkey and other areas of the former Byzantine Empire. In 1930, he founded the Byzantine Institute, a non-profit organization, with the full support of several committee members, such as John Nicholas Brown, Charles R. Crane, Charles R. Morey, Matthew Prichard, George D. Pratt, John Shapley, and others. In 1931, Whittemore and the Byzantine Institute were given permission to conserve and restore the original mosaics of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, ?smet ?nönü, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Economy. As the Director of the Byzantine Institute, Whittemore carried out the negotiations with government officials in Turkey, obtained work permits, recruited skilled fieldworkers, organized fundraising events, managed the Byzantine Institute staff, and delivered fieldwork supplies from/to the various sites.
On June 8, 1950, Whittemore suffered a heart attack while on his way to a meeting in the office of John Foster Dulles, then special advisor to the Secretary of State, in Washington, D.C. He died at the age of 79 and is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.


Reference List


This collection is divided into four series based on the content type and subject matter: Personal Papers, Correspondence, Unpublished and Printed Materials, and Photographs). The items are organized in chronological order, with undated items filed at the end of each series.

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of Thomas Whittemore's teaching materials, correspondence, printed materials (e.g., books, playbills, and pamphlets), and photographs, which were created between the late 1800s and 1950s. The items are related to Whittemore's teaching career at Tufts College and Columbia University before he founded the Byzantine Institute in 1930. The contents also record and illustrate Whittemore's other activities during this period, such as his trips to Europe, as well as his relationships with a number of individuals, including family, friends, colleagues, and fraternity brothers, throughout his lifetime. Collection includes an Addendum consisting of administrative and research materials.


Collection includes an Addendum, which consists of:

Other Finding Aids

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Ancient art
Russian art
Teaching material
Travel photography
World War I
Russian Revolution
Relief service
Mount Athos
Medford, MA
Cambridge, MA
New York City, NY
Whittemore, Thomas, 1871-1950
Tufts University, 1852-
Columbia University, 1754-
New York University, 1831-
Byzantine Institute, Inc., 1930-1962
Fogg Art Museum, 1895-