Oral history interview with Elizabeth Valkenier, 2016
Elizabeth Valkenier is Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia and Resident Scholar at the Harriman Institute at the time of the interview. She started at the Harriman Intsitute (then, the Russian Institute) in 1949 to earn the program certificate, and she holds a PhD in History. She has published numerous articles and books, mostly on nineteenth century Russian Art.
Scope and Contents
In the first session of the interview, Elizabeth Valkenier discusses her experience as a student at the then-Russian Institute in the 1950s and 1960s; in general, she thought those in charge of the Institute tried to keep the politics of the Cold War out of the Institute. Valkenier did not note any particular discrimination against women at Harriman and Columbia at that time. She views that there has been a decline in Harriman's influence on policy, but she argues that this is for the better. She expresses her concern for the decline of area studies. Valkenier also dicusses her travels in the USSR in the 1960s, when she experienced Russians first and foremost as people, rather than two-dimensional apparatchiks. She states that, because of her work, she saw that the Soviet system was economically weak and so was not as surprised by its collapse as many of her Harriman colleagues. In the second session, Valkenier begins with a lengthy discussion of her journey from Poland, where she was born, to the USA during World War II. She felt well treated all along the way, even in Japan in 1941. Valkenier discusses her work on the Russian Realist painters and the how they became an interest for her. The session closes with a discussion of a number of Valkenier's associates during her time at Harriman during the 1950s and 1960s.
Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2016.