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Oleg Grabar papers, 1898-2009

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Grabar (Oleg) Papers

Scope and Content of Collection

The Oleg Grabar papers document the career of the scholar who transformed the field of Islamic art history in the United States. Compiled over more than fifty years, the archive contains thousands of photographs, slides, notes, specialized and hard-to-find research materials, unpublished works including lectures and student theses, historical maps, and ephemera. A small amount of material, especially photographs of Byzantine art and architecture, originally collected by André Grabar is also included.

Focusing on Grabar's fieldwork and site documentation, the first series contains the majority of the original material in the archive. Notes, drawings and photographs record Grabar's excavation work, detailed on-site studies, site surveys and study travels. Unique photographs, in the form of prints, negatives and slides, display images ranging from sites in obscure areas of the Middle East or Central Asia to well-known monuments, such as the Alhambra or the Dome of the Rock, captured with Grabar's eye for special details. The earlier photographs are particularly important for documenting the mid-twentieth-century state of preservation before subsequent alterations or even destruction of monuments.

Research materials assembled by Oleg Grabar for his publications and projects comprise the bulk of the archive. Offprints and photocopies of articles form the overwhelming majority of the material, but occasionally notes, letters received, photographs and drawings are included. Since almost all of the material in this series is available through other sources, its value lies in the aggregation for ease of research and in the snapshot it presents of Oleg Grabar's intellectual landscape. The material testifies to the scope of Grabar's interests, covering all areas of Islamic art and architecture, and related historical and cultural issues and literary topics in the Islamic world, as well as both its antecedents and contemporary developments in the Classical and post-Classical worlds, in the Byzantine sphere and the Medieval West.

Three small series relating to Grabar's writings, correspondence, and faculty and professional service complete the archive. Included in these series are a few drafts of lectures and publication production material, as well as a scattering of correspondence and materials relating to two courses Grabar taught at Harvard. Grabar's work with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the various entities funded by the Aga Khan Development Network is more fully documented.

In order to facilitate access, the names of sites and monuments used in this finding aid conform to the preferred usage of ArchNet, the online architectural community sponsored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Other transliterations of Arabic generally follow Grabar's usage.


Arranged in five series:
Series I. Fieldwork and site documentation, 1927-2002, undated;
Series II. Research materials, 1898-2009, undated;
Series III. Lectures and writings, 1988-2000, undated;
Series IV. Correspondence, 1935-1995, undated;
Series V. Faculty and professional service, 1975-2006, undated.

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