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Home of the Humanities

The founding donors, Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss, called upon future policy-makers “to remember that Dumbarton Oaks is conceived in a new pattern, where quality and not number shall determine the choice of its scholars; that it is the home of the Humanities, not a mere aggregation of books and objects of art; that the house itself and the gardens have their educational importance and that all are of humanistic value.” These ambitions continue to guide Dumbarton Oaks, but with close attention to ensuring that the Blisses’ “new pattern” retains its vitality through constant renewal.

Explore our History


Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is the legacy of Robert and Mildred Woods Bliss to Harvard University and to the humanities. The multiple aspects of the Blisses’ gift include historic gardens and buildings, world-class collections for researchers and the public to enjoy, and generous support for fellowships and scholarly endeavors on the local, national, and international levels.

Our mission is, first, to maintain what we have been entrusted by the Blisses to preserve. Second, to support the pursuit of the humanities as a whole, with particular focus on the disciplines of Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies. Third, to honor the intention of the donors by achieving the greatest mutual advantage between Harvard and Dumbarton Oaks. Fourth, to serve the larger public through the museum, garden, and our music program.

Read Annual Reports

Learn More

Discover more about Dumbarton Oaks’ rich history and commitment to the humanities in the following projects, as well as other online resources.


Bliss-Tyler Correspondence

Letters between our founders and their friends and art advisors reveal the history of the institution and collection, and provide a window onto the relationship between art and philanthropy in the early 20th century.

Garden Archives

Comprised of correspondence, plant lists, drawings, and photographs, the Garden Archives provide documentation of the development and transformation of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden over almost a century.


From the Archives

Go behind the scenes and discover little-known stories in a series of articles featuring an item or collection from the Dumbarton Oaks Archives.

anniversary blog

Learn about the history of the institution, collections, and studies programs in a series of short features from our 75th anniversary year.


Explore Online Resources Rights and Reproductions