Arrangement / Assessment / Robert Van Nice

Arrangement Updates

Now that I’m pretty deep into the set of boxes we tentatively labeled as “general correspondence,” I’m in a better position to think about how they should relate to the material in the “Administrative” files that I looked at previously, and also how they might relate to parts of the collection I have yet to assess.

The major challenge at the moment is how exactly to think about the difference in content between the folders that Van Nice simply labeled “CORRESPONDENCE,” and those he labeled “H.S.” or “ST. SOPHIA” in the administrative section (this is not to mention all of the other folders of similar material that are variously labeled “FIELDWORK,” “PROJECT EXPENSES,” “EXPEDITION FINANCES,” and the like).  I can definitely see some sort of logic to the separation–the idea seems to be that the administrative folders generally contain material that has to do with the actual day to day running of his project: budget reports, time sheets for assistants, correspondence regarding equipment needed or with students/colleagues interested in particular aspects of his work, copies of annual reports and project resumes, and so on.  The correspondence series tends to be more personal and general in nature, or related to the goings-on at Dumbarton Oaks, rather than what was actually happening on-site in Istanbul.

The problem is that there are many, many exceptions to this rule, and the rule itself is not a particularly helpful demarcation for someone interested in Van Nice’s work generally.  The correspondence series contains no new correspondents–that is, there was virtually no one he was in touch with that didn’t also have something to do with the administrative running of the project. So, although it would probably be good practice to respect this basic separation because it was Van Nice’s own labeling system, there will have to be a clear note in the finding aid warning researchers that material relevant to his work, and material relevant to his personal life, will necessarily be found across categories.

Some of the William Emerson correspondence folders. Some, like this, have been labeled with the correspondent and the year, while some others have only the year and a mix of correspondents inside.

Another challenge is the presence of material from other collections, which is sometimes marked as such, and sometimes not.  The obvious clues are the labels of the folders.  I am very grateful for the fact that almost all of the original folders are intact, because if I weren’t able to rely on my familiarity with Van Nice’s handwriting and titling habits, it would be much more difficult to identify which folders came from his collection, and which have been pulled from other collections because they contain material related to Van Nice. There are, for instance, a few folders from William Emerson’s files in this collection, and also from the Byzantine Institute’s files.

Rona and I also spoke briefly about what we want to do with folders that contain mainly (or entirely) published material (i.e., offprints of articles by Van Nice’s colleagues, etc.) We have a tentative section in the finding aid for “publications,” but we had envisioned this to mean the material directly related to the production of the first set of architectural plates that were published by Dumbarton Oaks.  Eventually, this section should have a more specific title, and will also contain a note warning readers that there is correspondence and other material related to this publication scattered in other sections as well.

A lot of the published material we are finding takes the form of reprints of articles on Byzantine topics, like these.

There probably isn’t enough published material like the offprints/etc to warrant its own section, but we will have to decide how they will fit into the mainly chronological scheme that we’ll have for correspondence.  Many folders, for example, contain publications from many different years—so will they be mixed in with the general decades of correspondence that they go with, or should we put them all together at the end? These are the main questions floating around in my head at the moment.

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