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COLLECTION Identifier: MS.BZ.013

Thomas Whittemore papers

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.


  • circa 1875-1966

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

An appointment is required to consult the collection. Please submit appointment requests here: For research queries, contact the staff of Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (

Conditions Governing Use

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


1 collection

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.


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.

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.

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),"

Related units of description at Dumbarton Oaks

  1. Dumbarton Oaks Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Washington, D.C.
  2. Early Archaeological Projects Associated with Thomas Whittemore, 1910s-1930s, MS.BZ.017, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives.
  3. The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. 1920s-2000s, MS.BZ.004, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives.
Related units of description at other institutions
  1. Archives of the American School. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Athens, Greece.
  2. Autograph File, M 1648-1975. Houghton Library, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA.
  3. Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries. New York, NY. Related collections include: Crane Family Papers, 1875-1980; Charles Richard Crane Papers, 1869-1967; Committee for the Education of Russian Youth in Exile Records, ca. 1914-1939; and Iraida Viacheslavovna Barry Papers, 1850-1970.
  4. Byzantine Library. Collège De France. Paris, France.
  5. Digital Collections and Archives. Tisch Library, Tufts University. Medford, MA.
  6. Harvard University Biographical (i.e. "Quinquennial") files (HUG 300). Harvard University Archives, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA.
  7. Isabella Stewart Gardner papers, 1760-1956. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C.
  8. The Lucy Gura Archive. Egypt Exploration Society Archive, The Egypt Exploration Society. London, United Kingdom.
  9. North American Women’s Letters and Diaries. Alexander Street Press, 2001-.
  10. Records of the American National Red Cross, 1881-2008 – Central Decimal Files, 1917-1934 (Boxes 867-874). Textual Archives Services Division, The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. College Park, MD.


  • Fedorchenko, Sofia. Ivan Speaks. Translated from the Russian by Thomas Whittemore. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919.
  • Whittemore, Thomas. “The Rebirth of Religion in Russia: The Church Reorganized While Bolshevik Cannon Spread Destruction in the Nation’s Holy of Holies.” The National Geographic Magazine 34, no. 5 (November 1918): 378-401.
  • Whittemore, Thomas, ed. Post Liminium: Essays and Critical Papers by Lionel Johnson. London: E. Matthews, 1911 and New York: M. Kennerley, 1912.

Reference List
  • Constable, Giles. “Dumbarton Oaks and Byzantine Fieldwork.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 37 (1983): 171-176.
  • Klein, Holger A. “The Elusive Mr. Whittemore: The Early Years 1871-1916 - Tarifi Zor Bay Whittemore: Erken Dönem, 1871-1916.” In Kariye Camii Yeniden - The Kariye Camii Reconsidered, edited by Holger A. Klein, Robert G. Ousterhout, and Brigitte Pitarakis, 451-480. Istanbul: Araştırmaları Enstitüsü, 2011.
  • Klein, Holger A, ed. Restoring Byzantium: The Kariye Camii in Istanbul and the Byzantine Institute Restoration. New York: Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, 2004.
  • Labrusse, Rémi and Nadia Podzemskaia. “Naissance d'une vocation: aux sources de la carrière byzantine de Thomas Whittemore.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 54 (2000): 43-69.
  • Lord, Louis E. A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1882-1942. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1947.
  • MacDonald, William L. "Whittemore, Thomas." Entry in Dictionary of American Biography, suppl. 4, 1946-1950, 890-91. New York: Scribner, 1974.
  • Major, Ben. “‘The Socialite Archaeologist’ Thomas Whittemore (1871-1950) and the roles of patronage, politics, and personal connections in cultural heritage preservation.” B.A. thesis, History Department, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2010.
  • Nelson, Robert S. Hagia Sophia, 1850-1950: Holy Wisdom Modern Monument. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Sorenson, Lee. “Whittemore, Thomas.” Dictionary of Art Historians.
  • Teteriatnikov, Natalia. Mosaics of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul: The Fossati Restoration and the Work of the Byzantine Institute. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1998.


Collection includes an Addendum, which consists of:
  1. Folder 1: Document/Item Removal Forms
  2. Folder 2: Copies of letters between Isabella Stewart Gardner and Thomas Whittemore, from microfilm housed at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  3. Folder 3: Articles and copies of archival materials from other repositories, Folder 1 of 2
  4. Folder 4: Articles and copies of archival materials from other repositories, Folder 2 of 2, Includes a copy of "Thomas Whittemore: An Evocation"

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.
Link to catalog
Whittemore, Thomas. Thomas Whittemore papers, circa 1875-1966: Finding Aid
Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Dumbarton Oaks Repository

With more than a million unique and historical items, archival collections in ICFA represent the three areas of study supported by Dumbarton Oaks: Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape. Collections are generally comprised of administrative records, fieldwork papers, photographic prints, negatives, slides, oversize drawings, and moving images. Appointments are available Monday to Friday from 9:30am-12pm and 1-4:40pm (excpet Federal Holidays).

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