Arrangement / Assessment / Hagia Sophia / Robert Van Nice

Taking Stock

Having finished the set of boxes we initially identified as correspondence, I spoke with Rona about how we might organize both the correspondence and the administrative files. Before I move on to the next set of material, we wanted to make sure that we had taken stock of what I had already looked at thus far.  One of the main points that came out of our discussion was that the separation we had originally made between “administrative” and “correspondence” files might be more confusing than helpful since there is so much overlap between them.

The reasons why this is true reveal some interesting facts about the organization and history Van Nice’s monumental survey of Hagia Sophia.  The “administrative” material for the first few decades of the survey largely takes the form of letters to William Emerson, who was personally funding the project for the first two decades.  Van Nice kept him updated on the progress of fieldwork and sent him copies of his meticulously kept expense records and receipts. During this time, it was a much less formal affair than when it moved under the responsibility of Dumbarton Oaks after Emerson’s death.

At this point, in 1957, there is a clear break in Van Nice’s organizational system, and we start to see correspondence files broken up either by the year (folders labeled “HS” or “St. Sophia” plus the year), or by correspondent, and also by an inconsistent group of other headings (“Project Expenses,” “Time,” “Mechanics of Fieldwork,” etc.).  Some of these folders can clearly be identified as “administrative” in nature, including folders that almost entirely consist of timesheets.  However, these clear-cut cases are few, and there is a good deal of “administrative” material scattered throughout.

Originally, we were not concerned with separating the papers by form (i.e., budget material, time sheets, etc.) because the “messiness” of the files and the overlap between categories reflects the nature of the project, and also because we wanted to avoid having to do any arbitrary re-ordering or separating.  We still agree with this, but feel that there may still be room to separate a few of the clear-cut administrative folders from the DO years, since Van Nice himself engaged in some separation because and it will ultimately make the collection more usable.

Next I’ll be starting the publications material, amassed during the decades that Van Nice spent preparing his architectural drawings for publication, and then his research materials which cover a number of topics related to Hagia Sophia and fieldwork.

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