Friday, 31 May 2013

Introducing the Ernst Herzfeld Papers in the Metropolitan Museum, Department of Islamic Art

One of the lesser-known fragments of Ernst Herzfeld's enormous scholarly output is housed in the Metropolitan Museum. Since the Department of Islamic Art mounted a small exhibition titled Herzfeld in Samarra in 2002-3, we have been scanning and cataloguing our Herzfeld materials, with a view towards making them available online to scholars.

How the Met obtained the material is an interesting footnote in Herzfeld's life. In 1937, when he moved to Princeton from Tehran, he brought along his lifelong accumulation of professional files. On arrival he contacted his old friend Dr. Maurice Dimand, the curator of Near Eastern Art at the Met. Dimand agreed to store some of Herzfeld's personal collection of Middle Eastern art at the Met, where it would be safe, and Herzfeld gave the Met a frieze from Nizamabad that is still on display.
The Met's stucco frieze from Nizamabad, donated by Professor Herzfeld in 1937 (37.141).
Photo (c) The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1943, Herzfeld decided to retire from the Institute of Advanced studies and faced the twofold need to clean out his office and finance his retirement. He offered to sell the Met for $17,000 his professional library and associated research material, which Dimand inspected and described for the Museum's Purchasing Committee. The Committee authorised the purchase of about 4,000 books, comprising "one of the best and most complete libraries of Near Eastern archaeology," along with "other valuable material for our Near Eastern Study Room consisting of about two thousand photographs collected during many years of travel, about five hundred lantern slides, and a card index of ancient oriental archaeology which would be of great value to students and research fellows." In addition the Museum would receive approximately one thousand original drawings and watercolours of excavated material, including paper squeezes from the Sasanian reliefs at Taq-i Bustan, chiefly of textile patterns.
In late June 1944, with Herzfeld due to vacate his office and leave the country permanently a few days later, the Met sent commercial movers to pack the Herzfeld archive and bring it to the Museum. No Museum staff member was present for the packing, or had seen the archive since Dimand's visit nine months earlier. No inventory was prepared during the packing or unpacking. Thus it is not possible to determine how closely the boxes that arrived corresponded to Herzfeld's offer or Dimand's abbreviated inventory which the Museum trustees had used to authorise the purchase. But there were discrepancies. 
 
Herzfeld's bookplate in a copy of Yaqut's Mu'jam al-Buldan.
Many books arrived, and the Watson Library still has some with bookplates reading, "Ex Libris Ernst Herzfeld." The card index is here. The lantern slides, however, never arrived and the thousands of photos Dr. Dimand described were not all received. But the Museum did receive the hundreds of maps, watercolours, squeezes and sketches, made in the field by Herzfeld. These are one of the most interesting and useful parts of the collection, as many have not been published, especially those in Herzfeld's sketchbooks and journals.

One of Herzfeld's sketchbooks from the Samarra expedition (MMA Ernst Herzfeld Papers).
What happened to the other materials Dimand inventoried in 1943 for the Met? The find index of the Herzfeld Papers in the Archives of the Freer and Sackler seems to establish that they survived.  Two years after the sale to the Met, Herzfeld arranged from Cairo to give his remaining scholarly materials to the Freer, where his close friend Richard Ettinghausen was a curator.  It is probable that neither Herzfeld nor anyone else at the time realised that part of the Met purchase had been left behind in 1944, but however it happened, in 1946 those materials were part of what Herzfeld sent to the Freer.


View of Amman, taken by Herzfeld (MMA Ernst Herzfeld Papers, eeh-884).
The Herzfeld material at the Met, other than published books, is divided between the Departments of Ancient Near Eastern and Islamic art.  Ancient Near Eastern Art’s  1974 catalogue describes its Herzfeld material as including drawings, sketchbooks, squeezes, notebooks, an 1897 diary kept by Herzfeld, photo albums, more than 300 maps, some by Herzfeld, but many published by the military of various countries before 1920, individual photos, notes, newspaper clippings, and letters. 

Over the past eight years, the Islamic Department holdings have all been re-housed in archival boxes and folders, and numbered.


Over a thousand pages have been scanned, and the work is continuing.The material includes the following:
  • Two albums of photos, mostly taken from Iran, Iraq and Central Asia
  • Hundreds of loose photos and negatives, many taken by Herzfeld but others purchased from commercial photographers, some with identifying notes, many without, of people, places and excavations in the Middle East and Europe
  • Twenty-four notebooks and sketchbooks. Of the notebooks, many are transcriptions and translations by Herzfeld of published works and carvings on monuments, especially in Aleppo and Hama, in Hebrew, Arabic and Western languages. The sketchbooks include a number of Herzfeld's pencil and coloured sketches of finds from Samarra, along with topographical sketches, maps and ground plans of excavation sites. There are also books of sketches and inscriptions from Cairo and western Europe
  • Twelve notebooks of transcribed Arabic sources on the history of Samarra (e.g. Tabari)
  • Numerous architectural drawings and maps, many from Damascus, Baghdad, Mosul, and Hama, many but not all published as part of Herzfeld's "Damascus: Studies in Architecture" series
  • Numerous loose tracing paper ink and coloured drawings of stucco friezes and wall paintings from Samarra. Most of these are published, with and without alterations, in Die Ausgrabung von Samarra series.
Our plan is to make both images and a finding aid available online.

Rebecca Lindsey (Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum)

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