Discovery, Collection, Memory: The Oriental Institute at 100

The Oriental Institute is one of the world’s premier institutions for the study of the Ancient Middle East. Its roots developed as the University of Chicago was being founded, when President Harper mentored a young scholar named James Henry Breasted to pursue a degree in Egyptology. Breasted went on to direct the Haskell Museum around 1900 and secured funding from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in May 1919 to begin the Oriental Institute.

This exhibition explores the Oriental Institute’s 100 years of excavation, research, and scholarship. Focusing on the geographical areas of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan, OI scholars have worked rigorously to discover cultural heritage, decipher ancient languages, and to reconstruct the histories of long-lost civilizations. The exhibition remembers the OI’s past through archival fragments, artifacts, and ephemera as it celebrates its centennial.

Curator: Anne Flannery, Head of Museum Archives, Oriental Institute

Oriental Institute, 1931.

Courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum Archives.

Man at top of ladder and three men near base of ladder near wall
The Epigraphic Survey staff photographing inscriptions

Courtesy of the Oriental Institute Epigraphic Survey.

Aerial view of pyramids at Abu Sir
Aerial view taken by James Henry Breasted of the pyramids at Abu Sir.

Photo taken with a bellows camera in an open-cockpit plane, 1920.
Courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum Archives.

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download to members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.

For more information and images, contact Rachel Rosenberg at or 773-834-1519.