130 Years of Teaching at the American School

Yesterday I wandered over to the Gennadius library to take a look at the current exhibit in the Basil Room: “It is better to know Greece than what has been written about Greece. Celebrating 130 Years of Teaching at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.” It was designed and curated by the School’s archivist, Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan and runs until tomorrow (Sept. 30). The exhibit is arranged chronologically (by chairmanship) and contains materials from the School’s archives and items (chiefly photos) donated by past and current members of the School. The exhibit focuses on the School’s regular program (its teaching component).

Nowadays, the regular program engulfs an entire academic year. Students travel during the fall on 4 extensive trips to Western and Northern Greece, the Deep Peloponnese (sounds menacing, no?), Central Greece, and, finally, the Korinthia and Argolid. During the winter term regular members take two seminars, one offered by one of the visiting Whitehead professors and the other a mandatory Athens-Attica seminar that’s led by the Mellon Professor (Margie Miles). Spring term brings a bevy of options: more trips (western Turkey, Sicily, even Egypt), Korinth Excavations, and independent research. On the whole, regular members are kept quite busy by all of this and don’t tend to have time to do their own work (not much of it anyway). To become a regular member students must take exams in Greek history, literature, and art/archaeology and be accepted by the School. Most who come hold School fellowships, while a few others have external or institutional funding. The rest of the School’s members are “associates” (like me) and spend most of their time working on dissertations, books, or articles in the Blegen or Gennadius libraries (though we are welcome to participate in the regular program’s trips, too, if there is room).

But it wasn’t always so, and this exhibit does an excellent job of conveying the evolution of the regular program—its travel schedule, admissions requirements, funding arrangements, obstacles, and so on. In fact, during the School’s earliest history there was no organized program of travel and study, although students were encouraged to do so independently. Many, in fact, went on Dorpfeld’s two annual excursions (on the mainland and islands). We can catch a glimpse of this early enviroment from Harold North Fowler’s travel diary from 1882-83:

Travel in Greece at this time was hardly easy, and not very pleasant. Members had to worry about brigands, and so carried guns or acquired proper escorts, and the hotel accommodations were often quite poor. Fleas were a constant problem, and members often slept in enormous sleeping bags (below).

Eventually, though, a program of travel was arranged and sources of funding were introduced for students. Below the itinerary of Rhys Carpenter’s 1928 Peloponnese trip, and below that an early fellowship exam, in modern Greek (students are no longer tested in modern Greek).

The exhibit contains quite a bit more, so from here I’ll just provide a sample of the materials on display (which are only a sliver of what’s available in the School’s awesome archives).

Dinmoor’s photo album (showing the funeral procession of King George I, assassinated in 1913):

The first attempt to create a Gennadeion fellowship for post-classical studies. It failed at the time (1955), but was successful by 1963:

Finally, the Dream Team of 1968-69.

Included in this class were Fred Cooper (may he rest in peace), Mary Sturgeon, Susan Rotroff (whose plants I tend this year), Hector Williams, Stephen Miller (do check out his autobiography), and John Camp.

Let’s take a look at Alan Boegehold’s review of Mr. Camp: “Passionately interested in field archaeology, at which he will doubtless be very, very good….” Good call (for those reading this who don’t know, John Camp is the current director of the Agora Excavations). And on Hector Williams: “Widely read, learned, imaginative, one of the best young minds I have seen. His reports were all superior and what I have seen of his own work strikes me as being of good professional competence.”

On the history of the American School, see:

L. Lord, A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1882-1942 (which can be downloaded here).

Lucy Shoe Meritt, A history of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1939-1980. 

And several recent articles in Hesperia:

P. Murray and C. Runnels, “Harold North Fowler and the Beginnings of American Study Tours in Greece,” Hesperia 2007, 597-626. (for a discussion of the journal above)

J. Davis, “The Birth of Hesperia: A View from the Archives,” Hesperia 2007, 21-35.

K. Kourelis, “Byzantium and the Avant-Garde: Excavations at Korinth, 1920s-30s,” Hesperia, 2007, 391-442.

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2 Responses to 130 Years of Teaching at the American School

  1. This is so fabulous that I couldn’t resist blogging about you: http://kourelis.blogspot.com/2011/10/reporting-from-athens-ohio-tradition.html. I knew about Natalia’s fabulous exhibit but I didn’t make it to Greece this summer to actually see it. So, your photos were the closest I ever came to it. I have a favor to ask. Is there any way you might decipher from your original photo what Boegehold writes about Fred Cooper? He was one of my mentors and I was very sad to see him go.

    • Many thanks for the mention on your blog! I was unaware of Ohiology and look forward to spending some time with JMGS 1998 soon.

      Here’s what Boegehold said about Fred Cooper: “Hardworking, imaginative, thorough, and good company. One might not agree with all of the conclusions he reaches, but he has worked his way to them honestly, and will discard them if shown a reasonable refutation.”

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