July 30, 2018

Eastern Promises

I love museums as much as anyone (maybe that’s why we keeping running back #MuseumMonday, eh?), but I also know that sometimes you just can’t afford to spend the whole day walking around big rooms looking at old things in glass cases. Not to mention that kids don’t usually have the attention span for it. That’s one of the many reasons why the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute is so great—it’s cheap, it’s famous, and it doesn’t take all day.

The Oriental Institute doesn’t quite have the public profile of the Field Museum or the Art Institute, but don’t be fooled: it’s one of the most famous ancient archaeology museums in the world, and its collection of artifacts rivals that of just about any other you could think of. It’s got some of the oldest examples of official government writing in the history of civilization, and what’s cooler than imagining yourself walking into the courtyard of an ancient Assyrian King, as you come face to face with a 15 foot high stone wall with a majestic winged bull carved into it? They even have a real, live (well, maybe not live) Egyptian mummy. You’ll have to go see it yourself to find out exactly how cursed it is. They even have a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is the world’s oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew Bible. There are only around ten of those fragments around the world that are available for the public to see, so hopefully that gives you a sense of how unusual the kind of stuff you’ll see at the Oriental Institute is!

Obviously there’s a lot of really cool stuff, and it’s all packed into a relatively small space. The entire collection is about the size of one ordinary exhibit at a place like the Field Museum or the Museum of Natural History in New York, so you don’t have to do contortions with your schedule to make room for it, and it’s actually a pretty popular weekend destination for locals looking for something to do on a whim. There’s no admission fee (just a suggested donation of $10), and it’s right in the middle of the University of Chicago campus in the Hyde Park neighborhood, where there’s plenty of other stuff to do, so if you decide to spend the day checking it out, you should definitely stop by here.