University of Chicago News
February 17, 2010
James Henry Breasted III paused for a moment before entering a gallery devoted to the life of his famous grandfather, the founder of the Oriental Institute. The grandson stood pondering a bust of his grandfather, also named James Henry Breasted.
“Do you see any family resemblance?” asked Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute. Breasted looked closely, smiled and said, “I did when I used to have a moustache!”
“I grew up knowing I had quite an accomplished grandfather,” Breasted said. “But when I come here, I learn even more.”
Breasted was among a group of family members touring the Oriental Institute’s freshly installed exhibition on James Henry Breasted, “Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919–1920.” Breasted toured the museum and exhibition last week with Stein and Geoff Emberling, Research Associate and Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum.
The younger Breasted studied the photos and artifacts in the cases and then looked at a wall that displayed a large map of the route his grandfather took in 1919 and 1920, while scouting sites in the Middle East for Oriental Institute expeditions. “It was quite an adventure,” Breasted said.
“Before donating my grandfather’s letters to the Oriental Institute, my father had copies of them made for all of us Breasted children. So although I have not read every word, I have read in the letters enough to appreciate my grandfather’s remarkable devotion to his chosen path of being, as my uncle Charles so aptly put it, ‘a pioneer to the past.’”
Breasted never knew his grandfather, as he was born two years after James Henry Breasted died in 1935. But James remembers that even as a child he loved making maps, and after he returned to the state where he was born, he became a map–maker in a land–surveying business in Colorado, where he still lives.
He joined two other Breasted grandchildren, his brother John Breasted, his sister Barbara Breasted Whitesides and also a great–grandson, for hors d’oeuvres and a talk Wednesday evening—under the watchful eye of the institute’s great Assyrian bull— with a group of supporters of the Oriental Institute, known appropriately as the James Henry Breasted Society.
From left, Geoff Emberling, Research Associate and Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum, Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute, and James Henry Breasted III stand near a bust of the latter’s grandfather and Oriental Institute founder James Henry Breasted. Breasted III came to Chicago with two of his siblings to view the Oriental Institute’s newest exhibition about their grandfather’s journey through Egypt and what are now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.
During their visit to the University of Chicago, James Henry Breasted’s grandchildren and great grandson posed for a photo near the steps leading to the Oriental Institute’s library. From left are grandson James Breasted III, granddaughter Barbara Breasted Whitesides, Oriental Institute Director Gil Stein, great-grandson John Larson, Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum Geoff Emberling, and (seated in center) grandson John Breasted.
Members of the Oriental Institute’s James Henry Breasted Society gathered with the O.I. founder’s grandchildren for a refreshments and a talk in the Mesopotamian gallery, where the institute’s Assyrian bull is displayed as part of the Yelda Khorsabad Court installation.
See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.