The pre-Columbian, Byzantine, and medieval arts collection at Dumbarton Oaks estate in Georgetown neighborhood are amongst the often-overlooked ones. The brick-walled Dumbarton Oaks mansion residing on top of the hills above the city capital is home to a namesake research library of Harvard University and an arts collection that is venerated among private visitors.
In case you have heard about the Georgian mansion turn museum previously, it is quite likely owing to the ‘Washington Conversations on International Organization, Dumbarton Oaks’, during World War II. The Dumbarton Oaks Conference in 1944 is basically peace talks that took place among allied diplomats for over 40 days just as WWII was nearing the end stages. Nowadays, Dumbarton Oaks is all about academics and the in-house fine arts collection.
The namesake research library at Dumbarton Oaks has everything from Byzantine art to pre-Columbian, Renaissance and medieval arts and furniture. The visitors are welcomed to stroll through a landscaped garden at the estate. The mansion now has new sections, with each wing having its own peculiar design and concentrated on collections from different periods.
For instance, the Byzantine art collection at Dumbarton Oaks mansion is kept in an exhibition space with mosaics and columns that are reminiscent of ancient Greek architecture, the pre-Columbian artworks in a modern exhibit space replete with light and glass and the works from Renaissance and medieval period in a separate space.
The Dumbarton Oaks property was once the site of the ‘Rock of Dumbarton’, an endowment that Queen Anne granted in 1701 to Ninian Beall. The mansion was constructed on its property close to 100 years later, and it was renamed as ‘The Oaks’ during 19th Century mid. The first notable resident at the former property of ‘Dumbarton Oaks’ was John C. Calhoun, the former Vice President of the US, who stayed there during his ‘first term of office’.
Mildred Barnes Bliss and Robert Woods Bliss purchased the Dumbarton Oaks in 1920, and named the property as that as an ode to its historical importance. The Bliss family developed it to fifty-four acres space as we see nowadays, collected the artworks and donated sixteen acres to the Harvard University. If you want to see artworks comprising mixed media and prints, head to Dumbarton Oaks when on tours in Washington DC.