Committee for Islamic Culture: Minutes of Fifth Meeting, November 17, 1952
Smith, Myron Bement 1897-1970
Sevruguin, Antoin -1933
Smith, Myron Bement 1897-1970
Notes : 1 item (14 leaves) ; 21.7 cm. x 28 cm
November 17 1952
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 purchase, "369,13x18cm. glass negatives; 285, 18x24cm. glass negatives; 42, 9x12cm. glass negatives, forming the Antoine Sevruguin collection, made in Persia while he was court photographer to Nasr ed-Din Shah and the succeeding Kajar rulers and including the period of the dictatorship of Riza Khan up to his coronation (1926), acquired by purchase from the American (Presbyterian) Mission, Tehran, who had them by gift from the heiress of Sevruguin, at a cost of $200.00, the packing and transport by courtesy of Professor T. C. Young."
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