The Oriental Institute Centennial Celebration

To: Members of the Campus Community
From: Daniel Diermeier, Provost, and Christopher Woods, Oriental Institute Director
Subject: The Oriental Institute Centennial Celebration
Date: September 12, 2019

On September 28, the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago will commemorate its 100th anniversary with a public celebration—the first in a yearlong series of centennial events open to the University community and the general public.

Since its founding in 1919, the OI has conducted field-defining research, including excavations and field projects, linguistic research deciphering ancient languages, creating comprehensive dictionaries, reconstructing the histories, literatures and religions of long-lost civilizations, and preserving the region’s imperiled cultural heritage. OI research has uncovered new ways of seeing what connects humans and why—providing insights into the ancient world and the challenges societies still face today, from environmental change to immigration to disruptive technologies.

The OI pioneered many methodologies that are central to contemporary archaeological and textual fieldwork, such as modern excavation techniques utilizing satellite imagery and aerial methods, Carbon-14 dating, and the OI’s Chicago Method, which brings together drawing, recording, photography, and new technologies to comprehensively capture and understand the monuments of the ancient world. OI field research continues today in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan.

Much of this research is on display at the OI Museum, located on our campus and home to the largest collection of ancient Middle Eastern artifacts in the United States with 350,000 objects. As part of the centennial celebration, the OI has completed a comprehensive reinstallation of its galleries. We invite all members of the University community to visit the OI Museum, with some 500 artifacts from the collection that have never before been on permanent display; a new space devoted to the Islamic period; a monumental relief from Persepolis, which had been on loan for 80 years to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; and a special exhibit, “We Start Here: The OI at 100” commemorating the highlights of a century of OI discovery and research.

The OI will feature contemporary artwork from internationally acclaimed contemporary artists Ann Hamilton, Michael Rakowitz, and Mohamad Hafez—with the latter serving as the OI’s first interpreter-in-residence, presenting public programs that connect OI artifacts with the contemporary Middle East.  Also, a series of performances are planned in the galleries, including An Iliad in collaboration with Court Theatre.

You can find out more about opportunities to engage with the OI, including the public event, as it looks forward to its next 100 years at the new centennial website.

We are grateful to the OI faculty, researchers, and staff for the diligent work that has gone into this commemoration. Please join us in celebrating the impact of the OI’s exploration into the history of ancient civilizations that continues to shape culture and society in the 21st century.