Dumbarton Oaks is a historic estate in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It was the residence and gardens of Robert Woods Bliss (1875–1962) and his wife Mildred Barnes Bliss (1879–1969).

Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss were enthusiastic collectors and judicious patrons of scholarship and the arts. A graduate of Harvard University, Robert Bliss pursued a distinguished career as an officer and diplomat in the Foreign Service. Mildred Bliss inherited a fortune from her family's investment in the patent medicine Fletcher's Castoria. Sharing a taste in the art of little-known or under-appreciated cultures, the Blisses developed unique collections with the help of knowledgeable friends and scholarly advisors. They envisioned Dumbarton Oaks as a home of the Humanities, a place of natural serenity and intellectual adventure.

The Dumbarton Oaks Museum features collections of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art, as well as European artworks and furnishings. Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss initiated these collections in the first half of the twentieth century and provided the vision for future acquisitions even after giving Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University.

The Byzantine Collection spans the imperial, ecclesiastical, and secular realms and comprises more than 1,200 objects from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries. Although the collection emphasizes objects of precious materials, underscoring the conception of Byzantine art as luxury art, the collection also includes large-scale works such as mosaics from Antioch and relief sculpture, as well as more than two hundred textiles and comprehensive holdings of coins and seals. In addition to its Byzantine holdings, the collection includes Greek, Roman, and western medieval artworks and objects from the ancient Near East, pharaonic and Ptolemaic Egypt, and various Islamic cultures.

The Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art comprises objects from the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica, the Intermediate Area, and the Andes. Among its most important holdings are a variety of sculptures in stone, including carvings of Aztec deities and animals and several large relief panels bearing the likenesses of Maya kings. In addition there are sculpted anthropomorphic figurines and polished jade renderings of ritual objects from the Olmec, Veracruz, and Teotihuacan cultures as well as molded and painted ceramics of the Nasca, Moche, and Wari cultures. Gold and silver objects from the Chavín, Lambayeque, Chimú, and Inca cultures offer evidence of the expertise achieved by Andean metalsmiths, and over forty textiles and works in feathers testify to the importance of fiber arts in this region.

The House Collection consists primarily of Dumbarton Oaks' historic buildings and interiors, Asian, European, and American artworks, and interior furnishings. Principal to the collection is the renaissance-style music room. The ceiling and flooring of this room were inspired by examples at the guardroom of the historic Château de Cheverny near Paris and were fabricated by the Parisian designer, Armand Albert Rateau. The music room features displays of tapestries, sculptures, paintings, and furniture dating from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The Blisses used the music room for hosting musical programs and scholarly lectures, and it continues to serve these purposes.

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Category: Museums in United States

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User Reviews

Saveou Drioq (19 months ago)
very crowded on Sundays. great architectural designs and beautiful place to visit. The entrance fee is good and they do offer senior discounts. hahaha (only because this place is free.)
Heidi K (21 months ago)
A fun, free, historic place to visit in Georgetown. The property is a former rich resident’s collection of books, art, and treasures. There are some fun exhibits with unique items, and I enjoyed exploring the grounds. The staff here is incredibly friendly and helpful as well. I recommend getting a guided tour. The music room is historic, as the room where the idea of the United Nations was first floated. You truly feel like you’re going back in time as you wander the halls.
Bali Adawal (21 months ago)
This is a great multi level, multi theme museum strategically located in Washington DC. They have an entrance fee (unusual for DC where most museums have free admission) but I believe they waive it on certain weekdays and for students etc. Details are at their website. They have a really nice garden with an eco friendly theme. The settings are serene and conducive to introspection. We actually enjoyed the outdoors a lot more than the actual museum. A great place to spend an afternoon
Colby Berry (21 months ago)
Another wonderfully amazing free thing to do in DC! No matter who you are or how old you are, you will definitely enjoy this museum! It isn't very big, but the amount of great stuff of historical significance to see inside is beyond amazing! I will recommend this place to everyone I meet/know.
Miguel Garza (2 years ago)
Wow - lived in the DC area for 5 years without even realizing this existed. But these grounds are beautiful and really well-kept. The quiet atmosphere really feels like an escape from the city without even leaving Georgetown. Free admission in the Fall - highly recommend the visit.
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