Friday, August 19, 2011

Oriental Institute Job Posting: Curatorial Assistant

Find it here, or see the text posted here:

Provides curatorial and administrative support. Under supervision, conducts research on museum collections. May make recommendations based on research for exhibits and displays and assist with implementation. May assist with publication production, including creating production schedules and assisting with editing. May assist with planning educational programming. Provides general administrative support, including establishing and maintaining files for related records and responding to general correspondence and routine research requests. 

About the Unit

The Oriental Institute is a research organization and museum devoted to the study of the ancient Near East. Founded in 1919 by James Henry Breasted, the Institute, a part of the University of Chicago, is an internationally recognized pioneer in the archaeology, philology, and history of early Near Eastern civilizations. 

Unit Job Summary

The Curatorial Assistant maintains the museum office, and provides general support of other institutional staff on a project-by-project basis. Works with the Chief Curator and preparation departments on the development and installation of rotating special exhibits. Assists label writing and graphic design work for temporary and permanent exhibits. Coordinates digitization of museum archival material, maintains image database, and provides access to images for internal and external clients. Supervises interns working with archival materials and on other museum projects. Maintains social media outlets including, but not limited to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Potential for additional digital curation depending on expertise and future training. 


Bachelor's degree or higher in field related to collections required. Advanced degree in field related to collections preferred. 


Minimum of one year relevant experience required. Knowledge of database management software preferred. 

Knowledge relevant to museum collections required.
Basic knowledge of museum standards regarding the care and handling of collections required.
Attention to detail required.
Organizational skills required.
Verbal and written communication skills required.
Ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously, set priorities, and meet deadlines required.
Ability to work independently and as part of a team required.
Knowledge of computers and relevant software required.Knowledge of database management software preferred. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Epigraphic Survey 2010-2011 Field Season

The Epigraphic Survey 2010-2011 Field Season

ES professional staff photo 2010-2011

 On April 15, 2011 the Epigraphic Survey, in collaboration with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities/Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs, completed its eighty-seventh, six-month field season in Luxor. Because Luxor remained secure during the enormous changes that took place during Egypt's revolution this winter, Chicago House's activities ran uninterrupted from October 15, 2010 through April 15, 2011. Projects included epigraphic documentation, conservation, and restoration work at Medinet Habu; the inauguration of a new documentation program at the Theban Tomb 107 of Nefersekheru; salvage documentation at Khonsu Temple at Karnak (in cooperation with the American Research Center in Egypt / ARCE); and conservation, restoration, and maintenance of the blockyard open-air museum at Luxor Temple, as well as documentation of blocks from the Basilica of St. Thecla in front of the Ramesses II eastern pylon. . .
Read the rest here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"From Artifacts to People Facts at the Oriental Institute"

Matt Kohlstedt is writing a PhD dissertation: From Artifacts to People Facts: The Archeological Origins of Middle East Area Studies  in the  Department of American Studies at The George Washington University.

As a part of his research program, he received a grant from the Rockefeller Archive Center, and the report he submitted to them is available online:
 The Rockefeller Archive Center's (RAC) holdings are vital to my dissertation titled, “From Artifacts to People Facts: The Archeological Origins of Middle East Area Studies,” which traces the origins, content, and ramifications of interwar American academic interest in the Middle East, showing how that knowledge was utilized during the wartime and postwar expansion of the U.S. sphere of influence in the Middle East. This project is not about all of America's imaginative investment, but is rather about a relatively small group of scholars who had an outsized influence on America's relationship with the region as a whole. As U.S. interests expanded during and after World War II, this accumulated knowledge influenced governmental policies and actions, including the increased use of propaganda as a method of peddling influence through deception. . .

Most scholarship on the Oriental Institute (OI) – an archeological institution established at the University of Chicago in 1919 – focuses on the archeological expeditions and excavations made by the Institute, which were financed through the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and family, mainly John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (JDR Jr.). Although the discoveries and work completed by the Oriental Institute are significant for the field of archeology, my primary concern is not with the discoveries that were made, but rather with the contacts that were made between the OI and local workers on various expeditions. During and after WWII, American scholars who were trained as archeologists transitioned into ethnological work, where they drew on their experiences on archeological digs in order to bolster their claims about Middle Easterners. Although the RAC does not hold significant archeological expedition reports, it does hold the administrative records that explain how funding was apportioned and justified. Such records are essential to understanding how a shift in foundational emphasis may have affected the OI's scholarly focus. . .


During the 1920s and 1930s, the principle American academic interest in the Middle East was expressed through archeological expeditions that sought to illuminate the history of the ancient world. James Henry Breasted, the founder of the Oriental Institute, used Rockefeller money to mount numerous expeditions to the Near East, returning to Chicago with a trove of artifacts. A variety of factors, including the global Depression and Middle Eastern nationalism, decreased access to artifacts. The shifting interests of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Rockefeller Foundation officers also reduced the scope and scale of archeological expeditions. Studies of the contemporary Middle East were seen as more relevant to the RF's mission, as well as to the broader interests of the U.S. government. World War II solidified this trend, as many archeologists were brought into government service to formulate propaganda and policy towards Middle Easterners.

Towards the end of the war, John Wilson, Breasted's successor, attempted to make the OI the finest center for the study of the contemporary Middle East. His attempt failed due to the resistance of his colleagues, but his failure pointed towards the ways in which area studies would come to be constituted during the 1950s. The Rockefeller Foundation maintained its interest in the Middle East, but channeled its money instead towards Princeton University, where the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, under Philip Hitti, would benefit from additional funds that might have gone towards the Oriental Institute. This missed opportunity and subsequent shift eastward is an essential part of understanding how Middle Eastern area studies came into being in the United States during the early postwar period.
The full report is well worth reading. I look forward to reading the complete dissertation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oriental Institute Job Posting: Director of Development, Oriental Institute

Oriental Institute Job Posting: Director of Development, Oriental Institute (and also here)
As a member of both the Oriental Institute's senior leadership team and the University Development Schools and Programs leadership team, the Director of Development will lead the Institute's overall development program during a university-wide, multi-billion-dollar campaign.

In anticipation of the launch of the campaign and during its silent phase, the Director will partner with Institute and University leaders to conduct the Institute's needs assessment and refine its strategic plans. Examine the Institute's prospect pool, conduct a gap analysis, set fundraising targets and outline gift opportunities. Throughout the campaign, oversee and manage the Institute's major (5-6 figure) and principal gift (7+ figure) pipeline. Brief and staff senior leaders in key meetings with prospects. Independently develop relationships with key stakeholders on behalf of the Institute and the University. Leverage the giving and volunteer potential of the Visiting Committee. Partner with other University Relationship Managers (URMs) to promote the Institute's priorities and help shape major gift proposals. Implement university development best practices.

In addition to raising larger pledges for a range of projects and programs during the campaign, the Institute must meet a seven-figure expendable fundraising goal each year. This sum is raised primarily through annual appeals and events.

Manage the development office of the Oriental Institute. Partner with the Director of the Institute, its Executive Director, the University Associate Vice President for Schools and Programs, other university administrators, faculty, researchers, trustees, the Institute's Visiting Committee, and other volunteers. Manage development staff as assigned. Align human resources to maximize fundraising potential.

Set and achieve an eight-figure overall fundraising target and meet annual fundraising goals for the Oriental Institute during the University of Chicago's upcoming capital campaign. Manage portfolio of major gift donors, serving as the university's lead strategist or URM for the benefit of the Institute. Coordinate with departments in ARD to maximize mutually beneficial fundraising results and report on them. Design and implement comprehensive strategies to identify and cultivate the highest capacity individuals. Build engagement of these individuals with the division and University. Create gift opportunities based on division priorities. Formulate and coordinate fundraising strategies and solicitations. Determine appropriate recognition and stewardship plans for significant donors.

Conceptualize, prepare and present proposals for support. Involve the president, trustees, other high-level volunteers and academic leaders in connecting these donors to the division to deepen their interest and involvement. Participate as a lead strategist in a University-wide development process to secure support for academic and capital priorities and actively build relationships through stewardship to encourage continued as well as increased gifts from key supporters over their lifetimes.

Staff Visiting Committee meetings and support individual member's fundraising efforts. Manage budget and staff to execute responsibilities in an efficient, timely and cost-effective manner. Monitor expenditures and use University resources prudently. Actively set a professional example for staff leadership of other strategic priorities of the University.

Seek opportunities for professional development that will enhance job performance. Perform other duties as assigned.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A New Project: The Jericho Mafjar Project

[First posted in oihistory 4 January 2011. Updated 10 August 2011]

A New Project:

August 9, 2011

The Oriental Institute announces a new archaeological project: the Jericho Mafjar Project (JMP), the first joint Palestinian-American archaeological excavation, making it a unique milestone for scholarship.
Khirbet al-Mafjar is located north of Jericho in the Palestinian territories. Famed as one of the most important of the "desert castles" of the early Islamic period, the site was excavated by Dimitri Baramki from 1934 to 1948. These excavations revealed a palace and great bath, both of which were intensively decorated with fine mosaics and elaborate stucco figures, as well as stone sculpture and frescoes, placing Mafjar as one of the most important monuments in the history of Islamic Archaeology.
The Oriental Institute was involved in support of the original publication by R. W. Hamilton in 1959. This monograph, and Creswell's repetition of its information, remain the scholarly basis for the fame of these monuments. This was assumed to have been the product of a short period of building and occupation in the early 8th century; in the absence of any final report on the site, the archaeology of Khirbet al-Mafjar stands in serious need of revision and presentation.
Help support the project.

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News: Oriental Institute exhibit examines commerce, trade in ancient Near East

Oriental Institute exhibit examines commerce, trade in ancient Near East
A new exhibit at the Oriental Institute Museum, “Commerce and Coins in the Ancient Near East,” examines the role of commerce and trade from 3000 B.C. to the third-century B.C. On view in the museum’s Mesopotamian Gallery from Aug. 11-28, the exhibit is presented in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money, which is being held Aug. 16-20 in Chicago.

Commerce, trade and early forms of currency can be documented for thousands of years before the first coins were minted in southwestern Turkey in the sixth-century B.C. Exchanges of goods and services before that time were tracked by detailed receipts and notations that took many forms. Among the earliest are represented in the exhibit by clay balls that contain small tokens that represented numbers and commodities. Once the delivery was made, the ball was broken open to verify that the amount of goods matched the tokens in the ball.

Among the other receipts in the show is one for the delivery of a dead sheep written in wedge-shaped cuneiform script on a clay tablet. A third tablet, dating to about 2000 B.C., is a request for money to purchase a female slave.

Egyptian and Mesopotamian weights and measures document the standardization of trade in early barter economies. In Mesopotamia, the adoption of a silver standard that equated measures of barley with a set amount of silver is illustrated by a rare example of a spiral coil of silver dating to about 1500 B.C., lengths of which were snipped off to pay debts.

Among the early coins is a silver stater coin probably of king Croesus (570-547 B.C.) of Lydia (southwestern Turkey) that was excavated by the Oriental Institute at Persepolis in southwest Iran, and large bronze coins from Egypt that illustrate the state’s effort to spread the use of standard coins.  Other examples of very early coins from Egypt include a gold stater of Ptolemy I (305 B.C.), and coin molds that show how Roman coins were made and forged.

Brittany Hayden and Andrew Dix, both doctoral students at the Oriental Institute, are curating the exhibit.

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

News: Islam’s origins

Islam’s origins
Historian Fred Donner offers a new reading of an old story.
By Asher Klein, AB’11
Image courtesy of Fred Donner

Islams origins
An early Quran leaf, found in Yemen: it dates to the first century of Islam, Donner says, offering evidence that the holy book was written soon after Muhammad’s death.

Since the 19th century, Western scholarship has taken for granted that in the first 100 years after Muhammad’s revelations, Islam was practiced much the same way it is today. Western scholars explained the birth and early expansion of what is now one of the world’s largest religions through the development of its army and political institutions, the need for social change among Arabian nomads, or simple economics. But “they seldom talked about the religious motivation,” says Islamic scholar Fred M. Donner.

A professor of Near Eastern history at the Oriental Institute and head of Chicago’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Donner instead believes Islam’s origins shared features with the genesis of Christianity.
The idea that Christianity didn’t spring fully formed from Judaism with Jesus’s preaching is well accepted; scholars and laypeople alike understand that there was an early germinal stage before the canon was worked out at the Council of Nicea and subsequent Church council meetings. 

Donner says that Islam too went through an early “ecumenical phase” when Muhammad’s followers were a loosely defined community—Donner, following the Quran, calls them “the Believers”—that may have included Jews and Christians. These followers were committed more to monotheism than they were to Muhammad. “It was more of a monotheistic revival movement,” Donner says. In 2010 he posited this theory in Muhammad and the Believers (Belknap). Islam, he writes, began as a religious movement, “not as a social, economic, or ‘national’ one. The early Believers were concerned with social and political issues but only insofar as they related to concepts of piety and proper behavior needed to ensure salvation.”

Donner’s conclusions diverge from the traditional view, which “sees Islam as being codified from the very first day,” he says. According to that story, the prophet Muhammad settled in the Arabian town of Medina after being expelled from nearby Mecca, and soon afterward he began to spread Islam. After Muhammad’s death in 632 AD, his teachings disseminated through the Middle East via military and bureaucratic expansion, eventually moving beyond Arabia...

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

News: The definition of persistence

The definition of persistence
A 90-year project chronicling the ancient Akkadian language culminates in the 21st volume of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary.
By Jeff Carroll
Photography courtesy Chicago Assyrian Dictionary

Technology has changed since these University researchers worked in the 1930s, but the goal remained the same: to build a comprehensive record of early human civilization.

In 1921 a team of University of Chicago researchers, led by editor in charge Daniel D. Luckenbill, began transferring information from excavated clay tablets, unearthed in what is now Iraq, onto five-by-eight index cards. The cards, serving as the University's data set, were reproduced with a hectograph, a hand-operated ancestor of the modern photocopier.

For the first three-plus decades of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary project, this is how it went. Information was gathered, either from existing tablets housed in museums or from new excavations in the former Mesopotamia, then transferred onto cards at the Oriental Institute. In cataloging the 5,000-year-old Akkadian language, researchers created a comprehensive cultural encyclopedia of early human civilization...

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.

Monday, August 1, 2011

News: Chicago Assyrian Dictionary hits 100,000 downloads

Chicago Assyrian Dictionary hits 100,000 downloads
William Harms
The University’s recently completed reference work to a dead Mesopotamian language has a lively following.

Soon after its completion was announced in early June, downloads of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, published at the Oriental Institute, skyrocketed — going from 4,429 in May to 64,301 for the month of June. Interest continued strong, and by the end of July, the dictionary had garnered more than 100,000 downloads from the Oriental Institute’s website. The Oriental Institute provides free electronic access to all its published material and also sells most of its publications in print form.

The response has pleased Martha T. Roth, editor-in-charge of the Assyrian Dictionary. A conference held to mark the completion of the 21-volume publication in early June drew a large international crowd of more than 100 scholars, she said...

See the chronicle of news about the Oriental Institute.