Van Deman Notes Collection, 1907-1929

Van Deman, Esther B.
Paper cards

Esther Van Deman was born in 1862 in South Salem, Ohio from Joseph Van Deman and Martha Millspaugh. Following her studies at the College of Emporia (Kansas), she obtained a B.A. in 1891 and a M.A. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1892. After teaching Latin at Wellesley College and the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland, she received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1898. She then taught Latin at Mount Holyoke College (1898-1901).
Esther Van Deman arrived in Rome for the first time in 1901 to study Roman construction techniques. She was the first woman admitted at the American School of Classical Studies to carry out research on the Vestals, a topic central to her interests. In the Eternal City she emerged as the first female archaeologist working alongside pioneers of the discipline, including Giacomo Boni, Christian Hülsen, and Thomas Ashby. As Rome was developing its identity as the new Italian capital, Van Deman actively contributed to the shift in archeology away from its previously antiquarian methods toward a more scientific, systematic approach. Van Deman taught herself the art of photography and found a passionate fellow photographer in the British archaeologist Thomas Ashby, with whom she undertook the study of Roman aqueducts. As a Carnegie Fellow from 1906 to 1910 [and Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies in Rome in 1909], she continued her study of Roman building materials and techniques. From 1910 to 1925, she was an associate of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. and between 1925 and 1930, she taught Roman archaeology at the University of Michigan. In 1936 she received the Honorary Doctorate from the University of Michigan. Except for these periods in America to teach and lecture, she stayed in Rome, where she died on May 3, 1937 and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery near Porta Ostiense.

Esther Van Deman’s life's work focuses on the analysis of building materials to establish a chronology of construction on ancient sites. In 1907, while attending a lecture in the Atrium Vestae in Rome, Van Deman noticed that the bricks blocking up a doorway differed from those of the structure itself and showed that such differences in building materials provided a key to the chronology of ancient structures. The collection is composed by the notes taken by Esther Van Deman during all her archaeological surveys in the Roman Forum and travels excavations between 1907 and 1929. It is a rare specimen of a personal and professional archive.

The paper notes have been stored in polyester envelopes. Each envelope may contain from 3 to 10 single paper notes. Envelopes, once numbered, have been subsequently organized and filed vertically into archival boxes.
The 4 boxes containing the paper notes are shelved in the climate-controlled consultation room of the Photographic Archive.
A selection of 309 paper cards has been digitized.

The Collection of 2,727 photographs taken by Esther Van Deman during archaeological surveys in the Roman Campagna, excavations in the Roman Forum, and study trips in Europe, Italy, and North Africa between 1898 and 1930. These images have been all inventoried by Esther Van Deman.
The Archive composed by 380 photographic prints (various format) not included in the original VD inventory. The collection includes selected photographs produced by EVD and by other archaeologists and photographers.

7,105 handwritten notes (10 x 15 cm), postcards, clippings and two albums (10 x 15 cm; 12 x 19 cm)

Project supported by the Society of American Archivists Foundation.

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American Academy in Rome
Photographic Archive
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