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Summer Internships

The Dumbarton Oaks internship program stands out for offering Harvard students stimulating and fulfilling paid internships in the humanities.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, in Washington, DC, is an institute of Harvard University that supports scholarship in Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies. Located in the historic district of Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks includes a museum with outstanding collections of Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and European art; a state-of-the-art research library; and beautiful gardens designed by renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.

Our summer internship program for Harvard students has met with great success in recent years. Harvard undergraduate and graduate students have worked on a variety of institutional projects ranging from online exhibits and garden excavations to preparing publications and mounting exhibitions.

Summer 2018 internships run from June 4 to August 3 and carry a stipend of $15/hour for a 35-hour week. Housing and subsidized lunch in the refectory ($6/day) are provided. For more details, write to

Information regarding 2019 summer internships will become available in fall of 2018; please visit us at the Summer Opportunities Fair held at Harvard in early December.

2018 Summer Internships

Archival Image Cataloguing: Syria Documentation Project

The Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) offers an internship to research, catalogue, and deliver online archival visual materials pertaining to Roman and late antique Syria. The intern is trained in standards and practices for the cataloguing and archival processing of visual materials by ICFA staff and consults ICFA’s academic fellows on research questions and methodology. The intern gains a firm understanding of the architectural and topographical terrain of the Syrian region and becomes familiar with the actions involved in the documentation and preservation of cultural heritage. He or she also acquires significant experience in the field of digital humanities through planning the online delivery of the physical collections.

Invasive Species to Native Plants: Finding Modern Alternatives in a Historic Garden

Beatrix Farrand, the principal designer of Dumbarton Oaks’ extraordinary gardens, used a combination of native and non-native species in her design. As detailed in her Plant Book for Dumbarton Oaks, which explains her selections as well as her proposals for maintaining the gardens into the future, she made her selections based as much on visual variety and leaf texture as on ecological fitness. Some of the plants she used are now regarded as invasive; others were inspired by her work in Maine and other northern climates and soils, and are poorly adapted to the mid-Atlantic, especially as the climate warms. We are seeking an intern to study her plant book and differentiate the native from non-native and invasive from non-invasive species, and determine which are well-adapted to and which are less appropriate for a changing climate. The goal is to suggest appropriate alternatives to the non-native invasive plants and to propose adaptable species or cultivars that might thrive in the gardens in the years to come. We welcome applicants with a strong interest in art history, garden history, botany, horticulture, and ecology.

Byzantine Coins and Seals: Cataloguing a Collection

The Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection contains, besides a wide and rich collection of luxurious portable objects, one of the world’s largest holdings of Byzantine coins and lead seals. These objects are a fundamental resource for the study of Byzantine economic, art, and social history; structure and government; prosopography; and personal piety. Since 2010 Dumbarton Oaks has been building an online catalogue to present the seals to the widest possible audience. The online coins catalogue launches in the near future to provide the public and specialists systematic access to Dumbarton Oaks’ comprehensive Byzantine coins holdings. The curatorial team are looking for two summer interns to help with the next phase of the cataloguing project, to add and enter new data on the seals with inscriptions in the form of poetry (the inscriptions on these seals are among the most creative and interesting in the entire collection), and for the adding and entering of new coins and relevant data (transferring the catalogue information from the printed catalogues online). Additionally, the new seals and coins storage requires rehousing and relocation of approximately 30,000 objects which will be an ongoing project and provide the opportunity to handle and work with the objects themselves. The interns will gain insight in how to read, date, and interpret Byzantine seals and coins, and will become familiar with the institution’s content management system (Plone) and online cataloging standards and conventions. Applicants with knowledge of classical or medieval Greek and Latin are welcome. 

Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library

The Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (DOML), published by Harvard University Press, was launched in 2010 and already encompasses more than forty volumes. The four subseries of DOML are Byzantine Greek, medieval Latin, Old English, and the Romance languages of medieval Iberia. The standard format of the series presents original texts with facing-page translations and limited commentary. DOML aims to make the written achievements of medieval and Byzantine culture available to both scholars and general readers in the English-speaking world. Up to three summer interns help prepare volumes for publication. They read, edit, and comment on the medieval Latin (and potentially Old English and Byzantine Greek) submissions. Their work helps ensure that editions, translations, notes, and all other parts of the submissions adhere to DOML style guidelines. As model readers, interns make sure that books in the series align with our mission of making both the texts and the English accessible to scholars and educated nonspecialists alike. Interns are trained to identify and standardize medieval Latin orthography, to copyedit and proofread for DOML style, and to interact diplomatically with translators. They also learn how a proposal becomes a published volume and observe firsthand how texts are translated into English, often for the first time, and they bolster DOML’s social media presence. The internship requires strong knowledge of Classical or medieval Latin. Knowledge of Classical or Byzantine Greek are welcome, as are applicants with knowledge of Old English.

Mapping the History of Cultural Philanthropy in the Nation’s Capital

Over the past three years, Dumbarton Oaks has piloted a project on understanding the phenomenon of cultural philanthropy in the Washington, D.C., area. This began with an innovative, intensive, weeklong Wintersession course on “Culture and Power: Art, Philanthropy, and Diplomacy in America,” offered for the past three years. The project continued with a pilot internship in 2016 where various collections and cultural institutions were examined, and this work was continued by humanities fellows in both the 2016–17 and 2017–18 academic years.

Building on the research objectives of these initiatives, Dumbarton Oaks invites Harvard undergraduates to apply for a summer internship to conduct further research into the history of American cultural philanthropy, with a particular emphasis on the history, mission, and trajectory of major cultural institutions in Washington, DC. The intern researches and collects information and materials and writes case studies of important cultural organizations, museums, and collections. The intern also details how institutional founders served as “cultural diplomats” for the advancement of appreciation and understanding of their institutions’ missions. The aim of the internship is the publication on the Dumbarton Oaks website of materials pertaining to these institutions, with historical backgrounds, images, associated timelines, and relevant contextual materials. In addition, the intern contributes to a blog that serves as a forum for discussing the changing missions, successes, and challenges of these organizations. The intern may also conduct interviews with cultural professionals and administrators at institutions in the DC area, and undertake research at local museums and organizations.

Public Programming and Outreach for Juggling the Middle Ages Exhibit

The Director’s Office is mounting an exhibition in fall 2018 centered on the many incarnations (textual, visual, material, operatic) of the juggler of Notre Dame, a popular medieval tale. The exhibit is designed to attract a wide, multigenerational audience, and the intern helps develop public outreach programs to promote the exhibit and enrich visitors’ experiences. The intern gains extensive experience preparing materials for activities related to the special exhibition. The intern investigates opportunities to showcase the exhibit to local schools and other groups, and helps develop a children’s guide and other appealing handouts. In addition, the intern contributes to Dumbarton Oaks’ social media platforms. We welcome applicants who are interested in learning about museum education outreach and marketing as well as the inner workings of cultural institutions. Experience working with different age groups and special events is desirable.

Publishing a Museum Catalogue: The Central America and Colombia Collection

The Pre-Columbian Collection at Dumbarton Oaks includes objects created over a span of three thousand years of history in Mesoamerica, the Andes, and Central America and Colombia. Its holdings of over seven hundred objects include stone sculpture, ceramics, architectural panels, small metal objects, and textiles. Preparation is underway for the museum’s latest catalogue, The Central America and Colombia Collection. The collection includes objects from the Coclé, Diquís-Chiriquí, Guanacaste-Nicoya, Veraguas, and Zenú cultures. Breastplates, avian pendants, and earrings are the work of master goldsmiths. Shell ornaments and jade Axe God pendants demonstrate the virtuosity and skill of ancient artists. Zoomorphic objects associated with water (turtles and crocodiles), earth (jaguars and deer), and sky (birds) suggest an interest in the three realms of the natural world. The intern helps compile and edit the Catalogue and a companion volume of scholarly essays. The project entails communication with contributing authors; proofreading and revision of glossary, biblio­graphy, and citations; soliciting image permissions; editing for overall style and consistency; and researching to verify sources or identify additional works that should be referenced. Students with Spanish language fluency are encouraged to apply.