The Oriental Institute Museum
1993-94 Annual Report
Karen L. Wilson
As I look back over the past year, I am amazed at how much has been accomplished in the museum - from face-lifts in the galleries to new exhibits, as well as the behind-the-scenes activities that made it all possible. None of this could have happened without the considerable efforts of the entire museum staff, all of whom I thank for their tremendous enthusiasm and dedication.
The process of updating and renovating the galleries continues throughout the museum. In January, the Centennial exhibit, "Sifting the Sands of Time: The Oriental Institute and the Ancient Near East," was dismantled, and we were able to incorporate some of its cases into both the Egyptian and Assyrian halls, to take advantage of the new information they provide. The gold, ivories, and Canaanite cult objects from Megiddo are now displayed adjacent to the exhibit of the stratigraphy of the same site, so that visitors can understand more about the archaeological context of the pieces within the history of the mound as a whole. The statue base of Djedhor has been placed in the Religion alcove in the Egyptian Gallery, and the cases illustrating "The Prehistoric Projects" and "The Syrian Hittite Expedition" now enliven the Anatolia and Syria alcoves of the Assyrian hall. In addition, in the Egyptian Gallery, the writing alcove has been rearranged and reinstalled, with a new introductory panel on ancient Egyptian writing.
May 31 saw the opening of a small temporary exhibit, "Sports and Games in the Ancient Near East," which was mounted to coincide with the World Cup Soccer competition that is to be held in Chicago during the summer of 1994. Curated by Emily Teeter, Assistant Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum, the exhibit draws upon the permanent collection to illustrate aspects of archery, horsemanship, hunting, board games, and physical sports throughout the ancient Near East. Congratulations to Emily, and to museum preparators Joseph Searcy and Katherine Luchini, for giving us such an interesting and attractive exhibit. "Sports and Games" will remain on view through September 18, 1994.
Throughout the year, the museum (and the Oriental Institute as a whole) continued to garner good publicity coverage of exhibits, educational programs, and research projects. Through the preparation and dissemination of quarterly publicity packets, Kaylin Goldstein, Education and Public Programs Assistant, has insured that the many events sponsored by the museum consistently are posted in the local and regional press. William Harms of the University News Office continues to work with us targeting specific items for additional attention and has been largely responsible for the major media coverage given many projects over the past year.
Bill and Emily worked together to achieve extensive coverage, including major articles in both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, concerning the recovery of original records of the Oriental Institute's excavations at Medinet Habu, Egypt, in 1926-33. These records, assumed to have been destroyed during World War II, were graciously brought to our attention by Dr. Karl Heinz Priese, Director of the Egyptian (Bode) Museum, immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the normalization of relations between East and West. In late August, Emily stopped in Berlin to receive the records and carry them back "home" to Chicago. Media coverage brought this event to the attention of the family of Uvo Hölscher, the field director of the excavations, in Germany. In November, Hölscher's grandson (also named Uvo) contacted William Sumner and offered the Oriental Institute an additional seven volumes of object registers, as well as four volumes of the daily field logs. The Hölscher family's generosity has continued and, in June, they forwarded some five hundred photographic prints and negatives of the excavation and of other sites in Egypt, including the staff of Chicago House in the 1930s. These materials are of critical importance in documenting the results of the excavations and will, in addition, aid in the research of the Epigraphic Survey, which is again working at Medinet Habu. We are deeply grateful both to Dr. Priese and the Hölscher family for their generosity in donating all these items to the Oriental Institute Archives.
Emily and Kaylin also have taken advantage of new technology by posting events and schedules through on-line services and on a variety of CD ROM format tourist guides to the Chicago area. As a result of increased publicity of this type, the museum is increasingly recognized as an attraction for tourists and, for example, the collections and programs have been featured in such formats as informative shorts broadcast over cable in hotel rooms. As a result, our visitorship continues to be high, and head of security Margaret Schröeder and her dedicated staff of supervisors and museum guards continue to answer their questions, request that they not lean on the display cases, and in many other ways protect the collections both on view and in storage.
Planning and preparing for the museum's forthcoming renovation has been one of the highest priorities for registrar Raymond Tindel and his devoted crew of volunteers this past year. So far during 1993-94, they have handled more than thirteen thousand objects in the course of such tasks as checking and up-dating inventories, answering research questions, and retrieving material for visiting scholars or for display, photography, and conservation. More than sixty visiting scholars, Institute faculty, staff, and students needed assistance with access to the collections during the past year; some came to see only one or two objects, others spent as much as ten days sorting through thousands of flints and sherds.
Ray was also called upon to give a number of "behind the scenes" tours of the basement storage areas as we attempt to educate the university community and our other supporters about the critical need for renovation and expansion. These groups often ended up in the Conservation Laboratory, where conservators Laura D'Alessandro and Barbara Hamann initiated them into the intricacies of conservation and the need to provide a stable environment for our collections.
This was also a year in which those in registration did, well, a lot of registering. Registering is the process by which objects are identified, given a registration number, and entered into the museum's records with such information as their provenance, material, and date. This process enables Ray and his staff to keep track of objects, care for them, and make them accessible to scholars and other researchers. Volunteer Peggy Grant has completed the registration of the entire Gremliza survey collection - some 9,515 sherds and other artifacts - and has moved on to the Chogha Mish material, where she has completed some 2,000 pieces. In addition, Georgie Maynard and Peggy Wick registered about 2,000 Amuq pieces last year, including over 1,700 flints. Registry also is currently involved in a major reorganization and cataloguing of the museum's modern casts and impressions of ancient materials, such as reliefs and cylinder seals.
In 1993-94, the museum made two loans to other museums for exhibits. Twenty-three of our objects traveled to the University Museum for "Before Persepolis: Anshan in Highland Iran," and five objects are now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago in their new galleries of ancient art.
These statistics indicate an amazing level of activity made possible by student assistants Kate Sarther and Robin Kasson, and volunteers Debbie Aliber, Judy Cherchi, Aimee Drolet, Leila Foster, Peggy Grant, Mary Grimshaw, Janet Helman, Georgie Maynard, Lillian Schwartz, Nicole Simpson, and Peggy Wick. Thank you all so very, very much.
In conservation, Laura and Barbara were kept busy cleaning and restoring the casts for the "Sports and Games" exhibit; conserving, preparing condition reports for, and packing the objects that went out on loan; and maintaining the general health of the collection. In addition, they hosted a number of visitors, including Dr. Sheldon Landsberger, Director of the Neutron Activation Analysis Laboratory, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; Dr. Sultan Muhesen, Director General of Antiquities, Syria; and Dr. Sarah Wisseman, Director, Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials, also at Champaign-Urbana.
As elsewhere in the museum, many of the activities in the Conservation Laboratory were geared toward the renovation and expansion project. In October, Laura and museum archivist John Larson submitted an IMS Conservation Support grant application requesting $25,000 worth of new map cases, shelving, and archival supplies to house oversize archival materials, much of which is now "stored" on a table in the basement. I am delighted to report that the grant was awarded in April and the new cabinets are on their way. When they arrive, they will be set up in the area formerly occupied by the "Sands" exhibit, and the materials will be surveyed and packed in them. In addition, Laura and Barbara are gearing up to begin packing the collections, starting with the stone artifacts, in preparation for the renovation and expansion project. They are working out details of packing procedures, ordering supplies, and, with the help of Joe and Kate, are rearranging the Conservation Laboratory. With the assistance of volunteer Francis Miller, they also have begun repacking and placing organic artifacts in new cabinets in the Organics Room and trying to consolidate storage there to make room for yet more objects. By June, nearly one thousand objects had been repacked, and Laura and Barbara had embarked upon the important task of computerizing all of their back conservation treatment records.
Throughout the year, museum office manager Lisa Snider handled museum purchases and accounting records, answered the telephones, kept our building in repair, located lost trash baskets, and kept us all in good humor at the same time. Lisa also assists John in the day-to-day operation of the photographic services program. During fiscal year 1993-94, the museum received and processed 158 requests for photographic materials and reproduction permissions. About 30% of those requests were for the publication of Oriental Institute photographic images in articles and monographs written by scholars who work primarily in subject areas relating to the study of the ancient Near East. The other 70%, mainly from commercial publishers, generated a modest income that funds the purchase of archival supplies for the Oriental Institute Archives, as well as routine expenditures for photographic paper and darkroom chemicals. Perhaps reflecting a modest upturn in the economy, the total number of photographic requests during the past fiscal year increased about 6% over the figures for last year, while the number of requests for non-photographic, general information has continued at much the same levels as in the past.
Last year, archives volunteers Sandra Jacobsohn and Melanie Petroskey completed re-sleeving the negatives that are currently stored in the Archivist's office, including just over forty-six thousand negatives in the museum numbering system and fifteen thousand field negatives from Oriental Institute archaeological expeditions. In addition, Sandy has single-handedly resleeved the first two thousand out of the fifteen thousand field negatives from the Anatolian Expedition (Alishar Hüyük) in the photographic file room, adjacent to the Archivist's office.
Thanks to Lisa, we have begun to computerize the data relating to photographic images in the collections, and almost five thousand photographic records have already been entered into a database program. Computerization of these records will enable us, at long last, to know exactly what images we have, to search for images of specific subjects for purposes as diverse as research and exhibits, and should enable us to generate a series of specialized lists and catalogues for outside photographic researchers and for in-house curatorial and research needs.
Archives acquisitions for the year included the papers of Helene J. Kantor, Douglas Esse, and Carolyn (Mrs. John) Livingood, all of whom are much missed by the Oriental Institute community.
For 1993-94, the roster of regular volunteers working in the museum archives included Lilian Cropsey, Kay Ginther, Evelyn Ruskin-Gordon, Sandra Jacobsohn, Carolyn Livingood, Melanie Petroskey, and Joan Rosenberg. In October, Evey Gordon, formerly a volunteer at the Israel Museum, brought her specialized background and skills to a project concerned with generating a history of the Megiddo expedition. We would not have been able to continue many of our day-to-day functions without the tireless efforts, dedication, and moral support of these volunteers, and we thank them for their generous help.
Our photographer, Jean Grant, spent the year capturing Oriental Institute special events on film, producing high-quality prints from even the worst of negatives, and - as usual - making sure that our courtyard garden was a delight for us all. Jean would like to thank her new volunteers Dawn Prena and Irene Glassner, who joined her this year, as well Ria Ählstrom, who still shows up on occasion and is missed when she is not here. And a special thanks to Barbara L. Thompson for the many hours she labored with Jean in the courtyard garden this spring.
All of our activities over the past year (as well as those coming up in 1994-95) have been and will continue to be greatly helped by the two-year General Operating Support Grant that was awarded to the museum in October from the Institute of Museum Services. We are extremely pleased that we received this grant in recognition of the excellence of all of our operations, from collections care and management to educational and public programs, and I want to, once again, thank every member of the museum staff for making it all possible!