- Type: Culture
NileGuide Expert Says:
If you are looking to find something a little off the beaten path, this southside gem is just what you are looking for. Small, affordable, unique, and perfect for the avid history fan!
NileGuide Expert tip:
The museum is small and on the traditional side, so it is not the most interesting for children.
Near the midpoint of University of Chicago campus, the Oriental Institute houses one of the world's major collections of Near Eastern art. Although most of the galleries have been renovated within the last few years, this is still a very traditional museum: lots of glass cases and very few interactive exhibits (in other words, there's not much to interest young children). A few impressive pieces make it worth at least a brief stop, although history and art buffs should allow more time to linger.
Your first stop should be the Egyptian Gallery, which showcases the finest objects among the museum's 35,000 Egyptian artifacts. At the center stands a monumental, 17-foot solid-quartzite statue of the boy king Tutankhamen; the largest Egyptian sculpture in the Western Hemisphere, it tips the scales at 6 tons. The surrounding exhibits have a wonderfully accessible approach that emphasizes themes, not chronology. Among them are mummification (there are 14 mummies on display -- five people and nine animals), kingship, society, and writing (including a deed for the sale of a house, a copy of the Book of the Dead, and a schoolboy's homework).
The Oriental Institute also houses important collections of artifacts from civilizations that once flourished in what are now Iran and Iraq. The highlight of the Mesopotamian Gallery is a massive 16-foot-tall sculpture of a winged bull with a human head, which once stood in the palace of Assyrian king Sargon II. The gallery also contains some of the earliest man-made tools ever excavated, along with many other pieces that have become one-of-a-kind since the destruction and looting of the National Museum in Baghdad in 2003. Artifacts from Persia, ancient Palestine, Israel, Anatolia, and Nubia fill other galleries.
The small but eclectic gift shop, called the Suq, stocks many unique items, including reproductions of pieces in the museum's collection. Allow 1 hour.
- © Frommer's 2013
Ask a local about Oriental Institute MuseumLocals have answered 67 questions about Chicago.
Ask Chicago Locals about Oriental Institute Museum
- Highly Recommended 2009
- Recommended 2010