The OI welcomes more than 60,000 visitors annually, many of whom come to see a special exhibition. Special exhibits allow the museum to highlight current areas of research by its scholars, offer curatorial opportunities for graduate students, and provide new perspectives for visitors. For example, the popular Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt was curated by a University of Chicago doctoral candidate and focused on the unique role that birds played in many aspects of ancient Egyptian society, ranging from religious cults to hieroglyphics and the decorative arts. In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East was inspired by the Oriental Institute’s discovery of a funerary carving in Turkey. Dating to about 735 BC, the stele inscription reveals striking new evidence about the cult of the dead in the ancient world, including new evidence for belief in the concept of the soul. The exhibit examines different types of communication with the dead and the concept of immortality across ancient Egypt, Iraq, and Israel/Palestine, as well as Turkey.
An endowment will provide a reliable source of funding to develop special exhibits and ultimately expand the special exhibitions program. This support will also give the museum’s curatorial staff greater ability to plan programs, develop traveling exhibitions, and acquire objects on loan to complement the OI’s extensive permanent collection and enhance each exhibit. In doing so, the museum will continue to educate us and spark new ways of thinking about ancient worlds, as well as our own.