RENOVATION MOVES FORWARD
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Why did the galleries have to close prior to actual construction?
- Early in the project, it was decided that for security reasons, the collections must remain in the building. The boxes and crates of packed artifacts, which fill the basement, had to be relocated because they were on the southern side of the building, adjacent to the construction site. The artifacts are now being moved into storage racks in the Egyptian gallery, to the north, opposite the construction work. Once the new wing is completed, the artifacts will be moved into it to allow for the installation of ductwork for the climate control in the former Egyptian gallery.
- When will the galleries reopen?
- The galleries will reopen in spring of 1998.
- How much of the Oriental Institute is affected by the project?
- The project does not directly affect the second and third floors of the building, including classrooms, offices, the Research Archives, Breasted Hall, and the courtyard. Please note that the Suq will remain open throughout the renovation and public educational programming will continue.
- Will there be more gallery space as a result of the project?
- No, there will be no net gain of gallery space; however, the demolition of the alcove walls and the reconfiguration of the galleries promises to make more efficient use of the space.
- Will the galleries look different?
- Yes, the galleries will look different. The renovation will allow the curators and the assisting faculty members to rethink which artifacts are to be exhibited and how they are to be presented. With the installation of climate control, any object in the collection, such as fragile textiles, papyri, metal, and mummies, which have generally been kept in the safety of the small climate-controlled storage areas in the basement, can be exhibited. The biggest change will be in the complete reorganization of the galleries. If sufficient funds can be raised, the Assyrian reliefs will be positioned around the winged bull (see fig. 1). The Egyptian gallery (along with Tutankhamun) will move to the southern side of the building. New permanent exhibits of the Nubian collection and artifacts from Megiddo will also be installed. We are also considering adding a permanent exhibit on the history of the Oriental Institute and its work.
Although the exhibits will be renovated, the traditional look of the galleries will be maintained. We will use the same wood and glass cases whenever possible, and the painted ceilings and ornate lights will be cleaned and retained.
- Will the collections be accessible during the renovation?
- Three special exhibits of highlights from the collection will be on view at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago (see sidebar article). Other than these exhibits, the actual collections are packed and inaccessible to the public and to scholars. However, John Sanders of the Computer Laboratory has designed a "Virtual Tour of the Oriental Institute Museum" that is available on the Internet (http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/). Not only can you visit the galleries as they were, but you can also see highlights of the collections and read about current archaeological and philological projects and see plans of the construction project.
- What will the museum staff do during construction?
- This question makes us smile. Although the galleries are closed, we are far busier than usual. The conservators, Laura D'Alessandro and Barbara Hamann, are devoting much of their time to the movement and conservation of the Assyrian reliefs; Museum Archivist John Larson continues to fill photograph orders and maintain the document archives; Preparators Joe Searcy and Randolph Olive are building crates; and Karen Wilson and I are hard at work planning the new installations. Karen has the additional tremendous responsibility of overseeing the entire project. Perhaps the busiest of us all is Registrar Ray Tindel, who keeps track of where everything is!
- When will construction actually begin?
- Although it is subject to changes in weather and budgetary considerations, the groundbreaking is scheduled for summer 1996.
- How is the project funded?
- All funds for the renovation are raised by the Oriental Institute Legacy Campaign directed by a volunteer committee, co-chaired by Jim Sopranos and Carlotta Maher. Funds are from diverse sources: government grants, corporations, and private foundations, and especially from individuals who appreciate and support the Institute. Any size donation is greatly appreciated. Pledges may be paid over several years; all gifts are tax-deductible.
- What can you do to help?
- If you would like to make a donation to the renovation, please call Cynthia Echols, (312) 702-9513, or write to the Oriental Institute Development Office, 1155 East 58th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637. Fax: (312) 702-9853.