A list of people, places, and terms that come up often in this blog.


Emerson, William: (1873-1957) Van Nice’s professor and Dean of the School of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Emerson financed and directed Van Nice’s survey of Hagia Sophia until his death in 1957, when it was taken over by Dumbarton Oaks.  Van Nice and Emerson maintained a close relationship until the end of Emerson’s life.

Van Nice, Robert L.: (1910-1994) The architect responsible for the structural survey conducted of Hagia Sophia from the 1937 to 1985. For more biographical information see the “Featured Collections” section.

Whittemore, Thomas: (1871-1950) English professor, philanthropist, and an enthusiast of archaeology.  He supported and worked on several excavation projects including Egypt and Istanbul and was responsible for the first major restoration of the interior mosaics at Hagia Sophia.  In 1931, he founded the Byzantine Institute, Inc.  He was a socialite with a large personality, with whom Van Nice often clashed. For more biographical information see the “Featured Collections” section.


Byzantine InstituteA non-profit organization founded by Thomas Whittemore in 1931.  The primary purpose of the organization was to study and preserve the Byzantine monuments and art in Eastern Europe and North Africa.  The first and largest project carried out by the Byzantine Institute was the conservation and restoration of the Hagia Sophia mosaics.  While the Byzantine Institute staff conducted conservation and restoration work at the museum, Robert Van Nice, sponsored by William Emerson, worked and focused on an architectural survey in the same building.

Dumbarton Oaks: Research library, collection, gardens located in Washington, D.C. Before becoming a research institute of Harvard University in 1940, Dumbarton Oaks was the personal estate of Robert and Mildred Bliss, who collected both Byzantine and Pre-Colombian art and artifacts.  The Image Collection and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) is housed at Dumbarton Oaks and supports scholarship in Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape studies.  For more information, visit:


Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya, St. Sophia, Santa Sophia, etc.): The name of this building means “Holy wisdom.”  A former Orthodox church, then mosque, now museum in Istanbul, Turkey, Hagia Sophia was built in the 4th century A.D., and is considered one of the most important examples of Byzantine architecture in the world.  For almost eight hundred years after its construction, it remained the largest building on the planet. This is the building where Van Nice and his team of assistants spent five decades surveying and meticulously describing.  The result of their work was set of plates published in two installments by Dumbarton Oaks. This is also the site where the Thomas Whittemore and the Byzantine Institute conserved and restored the Byzantine mosaics from the 1930s through the 1960s.

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