Letter from Albert Friend to Paul Sachs, November 2, 1946
November 2, 1946
Professor Paul J. Sachs
Chairman of the Administrative Committee
It is my pleasant duty to make the annual report to you, as the chairman of the Administrative Committee, concerning the scholarly work and the functioning of Dumbarton Oaks as a research institution. As I promised at the last meeting of this Committee, the report this time was to be in the nature of an accounting for the two years of my stewardship as Henri Focillon Scholar in charge of research, so I will be pardoned then if I make a retrospective survey over what has been for me a very stimulating and fruitful experience.
The period of the two years was divided not only by the calendar but by the longed for and momentous change from war to peace. This made it imperative for me, at the beginning of last year, to offer to you the best advice of which I was capable for the immediate setting up of a permanent structure which could insure the continuing fruition of the scholarly work at Dumbarton Oaks. Actually this structure was in no sense an improvisation but a rational evolution from what had been devised, under varying and difficult circumstances, by my learned predecessors. My contribution, so it seems to me, is not so much an innovation as an attempt to bring into focus what was inherent in Dumbarton Oaks when it became an integral part of Harvard University.
The specific recommendations which I made are contained in two letters to you as chairman of the Administrative Committee: one dated the 20th of November, 1944, concerning publications, and the other, my annual report of a year ago dealing with the program of research and the scholarly personnel. I mention these for the sake of the record and to express my sense of gratification and of responsibility that the recommendations contained in them were accepted by the Committee and ultimately by the Corporation.
On the bases thus laid down Dumbarton Oaks as a research institution functions at the present time. It will not be amiss, I hope, should I set out here in a synthetic recapitulation what I conceive to be the scholarly structure, functions and aims of Dumbarton Oaks (This is, of course, a report, to be corrected, rejected or adopted, as the Committee sees fit.)
- Dumbarton Oaks is an integral part of Harvard. University and functions as a research institution in Byzantine civilization, this to be interpreted in the widest sense as the culture of the Eastern Roman Empire in its formation, development, and influence, as seen in the fields of the Fine Arts, History, Theology, Law and Government, Economics, Literature, Science, Liturgy and Music.
- The scholarly staff (with the exception of the Junior Fellows) are members of the Faculty of Harvard University and are listed in the Catalogue as such in their proper grades or ranks. They have all the rights and privileges that membership in the Faculty confers upon them.
- The ranks and grades are the same as in Cambridge, i. e. Professors, Associate Professors, Assistant Professors and Instructors, and the salary scales (except by special arrangement) are the same.
- The Junior Fellows are in the status of Research Fellows of the University and are under the supervision of the Director of Studies of Dumbarton Oaks.
- The Director of Studies has the responsibility for all the scholarly activities of Dumbarton Oaks. He is in the nature of the Chairman of a department in the University in that his is the responsibility for finding and maintaining the scholarly personnel. In these functions he is bound to consult the permanent members of the staff and is responsible directly to the Chairman of the Administrative Committee.
- In all the Faculty grades (except Instructor) there can be Visiting Professors for a longer or shorter term. They have the same status in the University as a Visiting Lecturer in their grade at Cambridge.
- The main business of the Scholarly staff is to engage in studies in Byzantine Civilization, which are to eventuate in publication either in Dumbarton Oaks or elsewhere.
- Since the studies in the various fields must be related, cooperative research is essential, this has been and can be well done at Dumbarton Oaks, and it is the peculiar advantage of the institution that this cooperation can be made possible between the various fields.
- All the staff, except the Director of Studies, the instructors and the Junior Fellows, are obligated to teach in Harvard University in the field of their competence at the request of the University. The time so spent is not to exceed one term out of four (reckoning two terms to a year). The arrangement is to be made by the chairman of the appropriate department and. the Director of Studies at Dumbarton Oaks who in every case must give his assent so that the research program be not unduly interrupted by the teaching obligations.
- It is expected that all members of the staff above the rank of instructor are prepared to give public lectures in Dumbarton Oaks at the request of the Director of Studies.
- The Symposia and other such conferences are the responsibility of the Board of Scholars, of which the Director of Studies is normally a member.
- The Iengths of terms and vacations do not necessarily coincide with the Calendar of Harvard University but are fixed by the Director of Studies and. the Director of the Library and Collection.
- The staff are normally supposed to be in residence in Dumbarton Oaks unless travelling or studying elsewhere for the sake of a specific piece of research, this to be arranged with the Director of Studies.
- Dumbarton Oaks will not engage in any major projects of excavation. Nor will it participate financially in other projects of research outside of Dumbarton Oaks unless the Director of Studies or a member of the staff or an other person designated by the Director be a responsible member of such a project.
- Until such time that a continuing Director of Studies be appointed, the functions ascribed to him above are exercised by the Henri Focillon Scholar in charge of research. But I would suggest that, in the future, the honor of the title Henri Focillon Scholar be not necessarily tied to the Directorship but can be bestowed on one of the other full professors, either on permanent appointment or on visiting tenure.
- The chief aim is the furtherance of our knowledge of Byzantine Civilization by publications at the highest level of modern scholarship.
- For the accomplishment of this and for the judgment on all contributions to be published by Dumbarton Oaks, there has been set up the Publications Committee consisting of members of the staff and of the Board of Scholars. The functions of the Committee are dual: a) judicial and editorial and b) administrative, i.e., to supervise the printing and distribution of the publications. The Director of Studies is obviously a member of this Committee but not necessarily chairman. For the performance of these, at times, onerous duties, the committee can call on any of the scholars and of the staff for editorial assistance and upon scholars not connected with Dumbarton Oaks for judgments concerning contributions. To aid in the administrative functions, the Chairman of the Publications Committee is empowered to appoint an advisory committee.
- Contributions for publication may be received from scholars having no connection with Dumbarton Oaks. The Publications Committee is not bound to publish work produced at Dumbarton Oaks. It exercises its judgment in both these categories.
- The ultimate aim of the work in Dumbarton Oaks is the publication of a definitive History of Byzantine Civilization to be as complete as is reasonably possible. With this in view the Director of Studies and the Publication Committee have a criterion of judgment as to what research to initiate and to stimulate and what to publish. Naturally these matters are conditioned by the powers and aptitudes of the staff at Dumbarton Oaks and by the state of scholarship in the world of Byzantine studies, but unless Dumbarton Oaks takes the initiative and assumes some judgment, there will be little progress in these studies in this country.
- It is thus further to be hoped that Dumbarton Oaks will become the center of Byzantine studies in the United States and the “clearing house” for all information concerning scholarship and scholars in this field both in this country and abroad. This will take time, but I venture to think that some progress along this line has been made. The stay at Dumbarton Oaks for a longer or shorter period of scholars from other Universities and from abroad is not only a stimulation for the staff but goes far to make cohesive the studies so scattered in our time and to center them, in the estimation of the learned world, in Dumbarton Oaks.
The above is not a “table of organization” but a description of Dumbarton Oaks as it is functioning at the present moment with the addition of some of my hopes for the future. It is of the essence for a permanent institution that it function not upon an improvisation but upon a plan that looks to a long future and is built to stand the stresses of that future as far as we can foresee them – a difficult foresight in these days. I realize that I am going over much ancient history, that I may have been overexplicit in some parts of what is a kind of charter after the events and that I may have omitted some very important considerations (to wit: the Library and the Collection and their relation to the scholarly functions); furthermore, I may have expressed my understanding in a way not acceptable to the authorities of the University. For these failures I apologize, but I know you will agree that my experience in the studies and at Dumbarton Oaks may give me the privilege to be frank and open and even repetitious with the Committee.
The crux of the matter at Dumbarton Oaks and what has always been, and continues to be, my chief concern is the question of personnel. We must get the best available scholars and we must keep the good people that we have. It will not be so difficult to invite distinguished scholars from outside for a longer or shorter stay, but to take care of the scholars on the ground, to make possible a career for them, intellectually and physically, including finances and housing, requires constant attention. The Director of Dumbarton Oaks has necessarily a parochial job in addition to scholarship and administration but it is peculiarly an integral part of both of these. He must be capable of, and willing to do, cooperative scholarship and at the same time he must make the band of scholars feel that they are integral parts of a large, continuing and worth-while enterprise and not step-children of a distant University, sojourning for a period on a beautiful estate.
This last feeling is a very real danger and it is essential to create an atmosphere of permanency in which the careers of scholars can be built and into which the learned world comes for stimulation and judgment. All this last I do not feel we have yet achieved. In a sense it can come only after same more fruitful years but we should be on our guard against the forces, chiefly negative, which dull the enthusiasm by indifference and make a routine even out of the very events which should give the most stimulation. A research institution in semi-isolation can develop dry rot with surprising rapidity.
My report, Paul, contains virtually nothing of the specific achievements in research, lectures and symposia of the last two years. Most of these will appear in the near future as publications from Dumbarton Oaks and elsewhere. Then perhaps is the better time to judge how fruitful and successful the two years actually were. As for myself, I was not dissatisfied.
It is with a sense of regret that I present my last report as Henri Focillon Scholar at Dumbarton Oaks. I wish for many reasons it could be otherwise. But the sorrow is swallowed up in the gratitude that I bear to Harvard University which gave me two such excellent years for research in my field so interrupted before by administration and the war, and allowed me to have a part in the formation of the institution which, in the future, will be the home and center for the studies I hold most to heart.
As for yourself, Paul, you are the best boss I ever had.
A. M. Friend, Jr.