Visual Resources

Visual Resources

1929 Mount Athos-Princeton Expedition

In 1929 a group of three men, including Princeton alumnus and architect Gordon McCormick ’17, traveled to Mount Athos on an expedition “to obtain cinematographic and pictorial record of life and architecture of ancient monasteries.” A 33-minute film, a rare and early cinematic documentation of Mount Athos, and 350 photographs are what survive from that journey. They were discovered late in 2017 in the Visual Resources Collection, in the Department of Art & Archaeology. The project was titled “No Woman’s Land” and was aimed at conveying images from “a fantastic place because it was unlike any place in the world. No women had lived on this peninsula for 700 years, and they didn’t even allow female animals.” The digitization of the photographs and research into the story provided compelling content for an exhibition in McCormick Hall in 2019. In the same year a collaboration was started with the Mount Athos Center in Thessaloniki.

A medieval stone building complex, view up a cobblestone street with a clear blue sky. A stone crenellated tower in the center.
Mount Athos, 1952, (William MacDonald Collection, Department of Art and Archaeology)

William MacDonald Collection

William L. MacDonald was Professor of the History of Art at Smith College where he taught the architectural history of Classical Rome from 1965 until his retirement. He is the author of The Architecture of the Roman Empire (in two volumes), The Pantheon: Design, Meaning, and Progeny, and, with John Pinto, Hadrian’s Villa and its Legacy, as well as other publications. The photographs included in this project are from when MacDonald visited Mount Athos in 1952 and 1965.


Aerial view of a monastery and surrounding structures
Aerial view of Hilandar monastery (Slobodan Nenadović Collection of Drawings and Photographs of Hilandar Monastery)

Slobodan Nenadović Collection of Drawings and Photographs of Hilandar Monastery

Over the course of 30 years Slobodan Nenadović, Professor of the University of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, oversaw the conservation of the Monastery of Hilandar and in the process he compiled a comprehensive archive of drawings, photographs and sketches which were purchased by the Department of Art and Archaeology and are now housed in Visual Resources.


A page from a medieval manuscript, with a figure at the top in a finely decorated rectangle with lions and filigree. Below, writing in Greek.
Codex 1080, fol. 1r, Vatopedi Monastery (Kurt Weitzmann Collection, Department of Art and Archaeology)

The Kurt Weitzmann Collection

Visual Resources also holds the collection of images of Mount Athos manuscripts taken in the 1930s by former Art and Archeology professor Kurt Weitzmann. Access to manuscripts is not straightforward nor is obtaining photography of items within the monasteries, thus, these images have served scholars at Princeton and beyond in the study of manuscripts and iconography for decades. Hundreds of manuscripts are represented, from 25 monasteries and monastic communities on the peninsula. Accompanying these black and white photographic negatives (both 5×7 and 4×6 inch size) are file folders and binders of prints as well as notebooks with Weitzmann’s own notes in German and Byzantine Greek on each manuscript.

An imposing medieval stone building seen from across a hill, with crenellated tower and wooden balconies.
Postcard showing Stavronikita Monastery, unknown date (Postcard Collection, Department of Art and Archaeology)

Also part of the Weitzmann Collection is a small group of postcards he collected, either for their imagery or correspondence. In this collection, as well as the larger postcard collection belonging to Visual Resources, are vintage views of the monasteries of Mount Athos.