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COLLECTION — Multiple Containers Identifier: PH.BZ.002

William Earl Betsch photographs of architectural capitals in Istanbul

Scope and Contents

William Betsch created this collection in the summer of 1970 as part of the research for his dissertation: "The History, Production and Distribution of the Late Antique Capital in Constantinople." It contains 55 rolls of negatives and 1 notebook from his survey of architectural capitals in Istanbul, Turkey. Though Betsch’s original project was to focus on cisterns, he eventually concentrated on capitals. The negatives contain images of architectural features located throughout Istanbul, including the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Hagia Sophia, and various cisterns. The notebook documents Betsch’s photographic work processes, providing detailed descriptions of both the contents of each negative frame and the way in which he photographed each object. It also includes a number of diagrams that indicate the location of the object he was photographing and the angle at which he took the photograph.


  • Creation: 1970

Conditions Governing Access

An appointment is required for access to these papers. To request an appointment, fill out the online form:

All photographs have been digitized and may be viewed in HOLLIS Images.

For research queries, contact the staff of Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (

Conditions Governing Use

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


0.5 linear feet (2 boxes)

Biographical / Historical

William Earl Betsch was born in East Orange, New Jersey on May 27, 1939. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1963. Afterwards, he studied under Richard Krautheimer at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University (NYU). His Master’s thesis was entitled "Opus Sectile Pavements in the Early Christian Churches of Greece." Betsch received a Master of Arts degree in Early Christian, Medieval, and Byzantine Art from NYU and continued his graduate work in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Supervised by Cecil Lee Striker, Betsch’s original project was to establish the chronology of the cisterns of Constantinople and determine the terminus ante quem for the capitals used in the cisterns. In 1970, he undertook a survey project in Istanbul for his dissertation research. While completing his survey project, he expanded the scope of his dissertation to the various stages of production, uses and re-uses, and impact of architectural capitals as an industry in Constantinople from the fourth through the sixth centuries CE. Betsch’s dissertation was entitled "The History, Production and Distribution of the Late Antique Capital in Constantinople" and was never published. Betsch completed his dissertation in 1977 and obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Roman and Byzantine Art.

Betsch taught at the University of California, Riverside from 1970 to 1972. In 1972, he took a position at the University of Miami, Florida, where he remained as an Assistant Professor of Greek and Roman Art in the Department of Art and Art History in the College of Arts and Sciences until his retirement in 2013. Betsch specializes in the art and architecture of Constantinople and is involved in researching the development of architecture in the Classical Greek era.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by William Earl Betsch on May 30, 2008, via airmail, to the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA).

Processing Information

Inventory and collection assessment were initially undertaken by Kate Herron, former ICFA intern, on June 9, 2008. In 2011, the ICFA staff decided to re-assess the collection and update the existing inventory according to William Betsch’s fieldwork notebook in order to make the collection more accessible. In October 2011, Ana Elisa de Campos Salles, a graduate intern from the School of Library and Information Science at The Catholic University of America, conducted research, examined the negatives, and compared each frame with Betsch’s notes. De Campos Salles also expanded the inventory to include detailed descriptions for each roll based on Betsch’s research and fieldwork descriptions. In February 2012, the project was taken over by Rebecca Calcagno, a graduate intern from the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. Calcagno undertook research, completed a first draft of the finding aid, digitized approximately half of the negatives (for access to the digitized files, consult with ICFA staff), and drafted a digitization guide stemming from her work on the Betsch collection. In February 2014, Alison Skaggs, a graduate intern from the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, began the work necessary to finalize the project. In May 2014, Skaggs completed the finding aid by expanding and standardizing the descriptions in the Collection Inventory and Description. The finding aid was edited by ICFA Archivist Rona Razon, ICFA Byzantine Research Associate Fani Gargova, and ICFA Manager Shalimar White in June 2014, and was finalized in August 2014.

Negative rolls have been described using information obtained from both Betsch’s notebook and original research conducted by ICFA’s interns. Betsch used both established terms, as well as his own naming conventions. For example, he described some capitals as "panel type w/ H. Sophia foliage / cap." Quotation marks have been used when descriptions were transcribed directly from Betsch’s notebook and parentheses have been used when descriptions were supplied by ICFA staff and interns.

Rolls A and B, while mentioned in Betsch’s notebook, were not included in the collection when it was donated to ICFA in 2008. Roll C, which is originally mentioned before Roll 54 in the notebook, has been listed in this finding aid after Roll 54. The negatives were moved to ICFA cold storage for preservation purposes in 2014.

William Earl Betsch photographs of architectural capitals in Istanbul, 1970 (PH.BZ.002): Finding Aid
Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Dumbarton Oaks Repository

Dumbarton Oaks holds archival collections in its Rare Book Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. The collections include: the papers of noteworthy scholars in the three fields that Dumbarton Oaks supports (Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape); image collections depicting objects or sites of topical interest to scholars in the three fields; Beatrix Farrand’s personal archive of letters and original drawings that document the development of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden; and institutional records and architectural plans and drawings documenting the history of Dumbarton Oaks. For more information about hours and to make an appointment to consult any of the collections listed here, please fill out the request form:

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