Ester Boise Van Deman: Among the many holdings of the fototeca at the American Academy in Rome (AAR) are the thousands of photographs of Roman archeological sites taken by Ester Van Deman during her long tenure at the Academy. The photographs are especially notable in their attention to small architectural and construction details. Ms. Van Deman was interested in documenting how Rome was actually built.

Ms. Van Deman was the first American woman archeologist to work in Rome and was certainly one of the greatest Roman archeologists of either sex. After years of teaching and studying music, fine arts, and classics at several Universities in the US, Ms. Van Deman won a fellowship at the American School of Classical Studies (which merged with the American School of Architecture in 1913 to form the Academy). After a short stint back in the US she returned to the American School in Rome in 1907, once again to concentrate her studies on the literature of the Vestals. During a lecture at the Temple of the Vestals in the Forum, she reputedly became intrigued by the differences in construction methods and switched her concentration from books to bricks. During the succeeding 30 years, until her death, Ms Van Deman became the foremost authority on Roman construction, photographing details of buildings in Rome, in Italy, and farther afield. Her ability to determine the date of Roman bricks and mortars by tasting them is well documented, and she passed on that skill to at least one of her students (and then her long time colleague), Ms. Marion Blake, who remained active in Mediterranean archeology until her own death in 1961. Ms. Van Deman also researched the construction of Roman Aqueducts (with Thomas Ashby, who revised the Platner Topographical Atlas of Rome), and she produced the definitive aqueduct study The Building of the Roman Aqueducts.

Ms. Van Deman had demonstrated little patience with the anti-woman prejudices she encountered in American universities of her time, but she was easily accepted and accommodated in the more liberal academic atmosphere of early 20th century Rome -- even though she and women who immediately followed her were not allowed to reside at the Academy with the male Academy Fellows. Esther Boise Van Deman set the pattern which other American women archeologists followed in Rome. Currently, the majority of the Fellows at the American Academy in Rome are women -- and they all now live at the Academy.

Internet links:

For a short biography of Ms. Van Deman from the WOMAN A WEEK ARCHIVES:

The WOMAN A WEEK ARCHIVES: (at which you can also hear a computerized rendition of I Am Woman, if your computer is set up right)

AAAR Fototeca notice of the Van Deman Collection: