The Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) at Dunbarton Oaks have recently made available online fourteen films from their collection. Of greatest interest to Courtauld staff and students will be those dealing with the restoration and conservation, during the first half of the twentieth century, of Byzantine art and architecture at the Red Sea Monastery of Saint Anthony near Cairo and Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii in Istanbul.
The restoration work was carried out by the Byzantine Institute of America under the direction of the archaeologist and scholar Thomas Whittemore. The work at the Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii was enabled by Whitemore’s friendship with Mustafa Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. At the Hagia Sophia, many mosaics previously thought lost in the earthquake of 1894 were uncovered and Laurian Douthett suggests that this may have led to the conversion of the mosque into a museum. The films provide a fascinating early use of the medium to document the restoration process as well as giving a glimpse of life in Turkey in the 1930s and 1940s.
Whittemore’s four volume preliminary reports on the mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul can be found in the Book Library at classmark A3780 BYZ. An exhibition catalogue from the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University detailing the Byzantine Institute restoration at Kariye Camii can be found at Z5020 NEW WAL (2004).
Another film gives an insight into the history of the garden at Dunbarton Oaks. The aging 16mm films were themselves in need of urgent conservation which resulted in their digitisation and publishing on the Dumbarton Oaks website.
All images are courtesy of the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) at Dunbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.