Committee for Islamic Culture: Minutes of Fourth Meeting, September 15, 1951
Smith, Myron Bement 1897-1970
Sevruguin, Antoin -1933
Smith, Myron Bement 1897-1970
Notes : 1 item (3 leaves) ; 21.7 cm. x 28 cm
September 15 1951
Title and summary note are provided by Archives staff.
Classical archaeologist, architect, and art historian Myron Bement Smith (1897-1970) had a life-long devotion to West Asia, accumulating some 87,000 items now in the Archives documenting Islamic art and culture from Spain to India, with an emphasis on architecture. Established in 1948 to further an appreciation for Persian art and culture, nearly seventy-five percent of Smith's "Islamic Archives" consists of his own work; the remainder obtained from other sources. One of the most significant portions of the "Islamic Archives" is the photographic material of Antoin Sevruguin, a commercial photographer in Tehran active during the 1870s to 1930. Other materials in the collection include Smith's personal and professional papers including correspondence, research files, writings, and documentation regarding his 1927-1928 Italian and 1933-1937 Iranian expeditions.
The Islamic Archives, known formally as The Archive for Islamic Culture and Art, was an outgrowth of Myron Bement Smith's (MBS) belief that photography is an important research tool for the study of architecture. He relied on photography for his research in Italy in the 1920s and again in Iran in the 1930s. He called his personal collection of photographs, architectural sketches and materials on Iran and other Islamic countries his Islamic archives. He wanted to expand it by soliciting written and photographic material from other scholars, travellers and photographers. In 1941 the Committee on Arabic and Islamic Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) adopted Smith's idea as an official activity. It was formally titled The Archive for Islamic Culture and Art, but generally referred to by MBS and others as the Islamic Archives. It remained largely a personal activity of MBS and was housed at the Library of Congress where he served as a consultant. In 1949 he drafted formal articles of association creating the Committee for Islamic Culture to plan and operate the Islamic Archives and to administer a $9,000 gift that Dr. James R. Jewett of Harvard University had given to the ACLS to fund its development. Although the Committee met occasionally, MBS remained the driving force for the Islamic Archives. It was a personal passion and the focus of his professional life; he continued adding materials until his death in 1970.
According to the official minute, the committee for Islamic Culture reported the following vote, "That Mr. T. Cuyler Young be and hereby is empowered to purchase for the account of this Association all the remaining Segruvian photographis negatives and their catalog list from the American Presbyterian Mission, tehran, for a sum not to exceed $200.00, purchase to include any and all rights held by the original or late owners; further, that Mr. Young have the negatives packed and shipped to the Association; further, that the Association reimburse Mr. Young for all proper charges for packing and shipping charges for these negatives." and, "Mr. Young reported that the Segruvian negatives, a famous collection known to all Persian scholars, have been given by Segruvian's heiress to the American (Presbyterian) Mission in tehran with instructions that they be sold for the benefit of the Mission. The Chairman had seen part of these negatives in 1934 and had ordered prints from them. Segruvian was court photographer to Nasr al-Din Shah and his immediate successors; he accompanied the Shah on his royal progresses and recorded personages, monuments, costumes, types and manners. Prints from these negatives have been used to illustrate numerous books and articles; they form a precious record of a fast-disappearing way of life. Mr. Young said that the price asked is $200.00, which includes all the negatives on hand plus a catalog list."
Myron Bement Smith Collection; Series 2: The Islamic Archives; Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Gift of Katherine Dennis Smith, 1973-1985