Thomas Whittemore

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Thomas Whittemore (January 2, 1871 – June 8, 1950) was an American scholar and archaeologist who founded the Byzantine Institute of America. His close personal relationship with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and the first president of the Turkish Republic, enabled him to gain permission from the Turkish government to start the preservation of the Hagia Sophia mosaics in 1931.

The Byzantine Institute of America is an organization founded for the preservation of Byzantine art and architecture.

Turkey Republic in Western Asia

Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly on the Anatolian peninsula in Western Asia, with a small portion on the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. East Thrace, the part of Turkey in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous and the Dardanelles. Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Istanbul is the largest city while Ankara is the capital. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country's citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 percent of the population.

Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Built in AD 537 at the beginning of the Middle Ages, it was famous in particular for its massive dome. It was the world's largest building and an engineering marvel of its time. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have "changed the history of architecture".

Contents

Thomas Whittemore in front of Hagia Sophia in 1930s. Whittemore-major posing in front of the Hagia Sophia.jpg
Thomas Whittemore in front of Hagia Sophia in 1930s.

Early life

Thomas Whittemore was born in the Cambridgeport neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on January 2, 1871. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Tufts College in 1894. He taught English Composition at Tufts for a year and then studied at Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He also taught courses in the fine arts at New York University and Columbia University. [1]

Cambridge, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and part of the Boston metropolitan area.

Massachusetts State in the northeastern United States

Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of the population of Massachusetts lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.

Tufts University private research university in Medford/Somerville, Massachusetts

Tufts University is a private research university in Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts. A charter member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), Tufts College was founded in 1852 by Christian universalists who worked for years to open a nonsectarian institution of higher learning. It was a small New England liberal arts college until its transformation into a larger research university in the 1970s. The university emphasizes active citizenship and public service in all its disciplines, and is known for its internationalism and study abroad programs.

Professional activities

From 1911 until his death Whittemore served as American representative on the Egyptian Exploration Fund. [2]

Whittemore worked in various capacities to provide relief to Russian refugees during World War I and following the Russian Revolution. He spent 8 months in Russia in 1915-16 and reported on conditions there when he returned to New York to organized shipments of supplies. He was a member of the U.S.-based Russian Relief Commission and a committee for war relief organized by Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaovna. [3]

Russian Revolution 20th-century revolution leading to the downfall of the Russian monarchy

The Russian Revolution was a period of political and social revolution across the territory of the Russian Empire which started with the abolishment of monarchy and concluded with the establishment of the Soviet Union by the Bolsheviks and the end of the civil war.

Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia Second daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia

Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia was the second daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, and of Tsarina Alexandra. She was born at the Peterhof, Saint Petersburg.

Byzantine studies

In 1930, Whittemore founded the Byzantine Institute of America, whose mission was to "conserve, restore, study, and document" the monuments and artworks of the Byzantine world. [4] In 1931, Whittemore traveled with the Institute to Istanbul with the permission of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to oversee the removal of plaster covering the Byzantine mosaics in Hagia Sophia. Of the radical and sudden transformation of Hagia Sophia from an active mosque to a secular museum in 1931 he wrote: "Santa Sophia was a mosque the day that I talked to him. The next morning, when I went to the mosque, there was a sign on the door written in Ataturk's own hand. It said: 'The museum is closed for repairs'" [5]

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Founder of the Republic of Turkey

Kemal Atatürk, commonly referred to as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was a Turkish field marshal (Mareşal), revolutionary statesman, author, and founder of the Republic of Turkey, serving as its first President from 1923 until his death in 1938. His leadership undertook sweeping liberal reforms, which modernized Turkey into a secular, industrial nation. Ideologically a secularist and nationalist, his policies and theories became known as Kemalism.

In 1934, Harvard University appointed him keeper of Byzantine coins and seals at the Fogg Art Museum for a year. [6] He also accepted a presidential appointment to represent the United States at the Byzantine Conference in Sofia in September of that year. [7]

His work was widely reported in the United States. In 1942, the New York Times noted his return to Istanbul for his "ninth year in uncovering Byzantine mosaics in the St. Sophia Museum". [8]

Beginning in 1948, he sponsored a program for the restoration of the mosaics in the Chora Church in Istanbul. [9]

Brown University awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1950. [2]

Death

On June 8, 1950, he suffered a heart attack while visiting the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. He was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Notes

  1. "Finding aid to the Thomas Whittemore papers, ca. 1875–1966, in the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection" (PDF). Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  2. 1 2 "Prof. Whittemore of Harvard Dead" (PDF). New York Times. June 9, 1950. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  3. "Russian in Want, But Won't Ask Aid" (PDF). New York Times. June 10, 1916. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  4. "Finding Aid to the Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork records and papers, ca. late 1920s-2000s, in the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection" (PDF). Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  5. John Patrick Douglas Balfour, Baron Kinross, Hagia Sophia: A History of Constantinople (W.W. Norton & Company, 1972), 128
  6. "To Join Harvard Faculty" (PDF). New York Times. March 29, 1934. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  7. "To Attend Byzantine Congress" (PDF). New York Times. September 5, 1934. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  8. "Whittemore Back in Istanbul" (PDF). New York Times. February 28, 1942. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  9. Foster, R.D. "Istanbul's Overlooked Gem". ALO Magazine. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. Retrieved January 28, 2015.

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