The Oriental Institute was founded in 1919 by James Henry Breasted with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller Jr., and was originally envisaged as a research laboratory for the investigation of the early human career that would trace humankind’s progress from the most ancient days of the Middle East. The goal of the Oriental Institute is to be the world’s leading center for the study of ancient Near Eastern civilizations by combining innovation in theory, methodology, and significant empirical discovery with the highest standards of rigorous scholarship.
The Oriental Institute Museum was opened to the public in 1931. The majority of the collections of the Oriental Institute came from its expeditions in the Middle East during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. A major reinstallation of the Museum, including the construction of a climate-controlled wing for housing collections and archives, took place in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Voting Members of the Oriental Institute meet quarterly and approve changes to the Mission Statement of the Oriental Institute Museum. The Oriental Institute is a unit within the University of Chicago and the name of the corporation is “The University of Chicago.” The corporation was originally incorporated on September 10, 1890.
The Oriental Institute is currently undergoing the process of addressing issues surrounding our name, we are taking actions that will ultimately result in the renaming of the institution. As this process unfolds, we will continue to refer to our institution under the abbreviation, The OI.