The Oriental Institute is part of the University of Chicago's research center for ancient Near Eastern Studies. The museum has world-renowned collection of art and archaeology from the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria and more. Admission is FREE (with a suggested donation), and exploring the exhibit galleries is a great weekend activity for history enthusiasts, or junior archaeologists with their entire family, to enjoy.
The Oriental Institute has a collection of thousands of original clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions from ancient times. An appointment is required to see the Tablet Room. This exhibit is especially great for students.
The ongoing exhibit Drones over the Desert: Archaeology and Aerial Photography is a display of aerial photography that captures excavation areas in Israel and Jordan. The photos show patterns that are not visible to historians on the ground. This exhibit is really cool because it merges history with modern technology.
Other current and upcoming special exhibitions include: Persepolis: Images of an Empire (on display now through September 3, 2017) and the upcoming The Book of the Dead: Becoming God in Ancient Egypt (October 3, 2017 - March 31, 2018).
This gallery is the largest collection of original materials from ancient Mesopotamia. Explore more than 1,000 objects that date back to the Paleolithic period in 80,000 B.C. Archaeologists at the institute have used the objects to document fascinating developments of human society. Pottery, jewelry, sculptures and much more are paired with written descriptions. You could spend all day in this part of the institute!
In this area of the museum, part of the palace courtyard of king Sargon II of Assyria is recreated. Go back in time to 721–705 B.C. to experience the majestic 16-foot-tall, 40-ton relief of a human-headed winged bull—called a lamassu.
The civilization of Ancient Egypt fascinates history buffs of all ages. The Egyptian Gallery here has more than 800 artifacts originating from this time period, including a 17-foot-tall statue of the famous King Tutankhamun. Yes, there are mummies, in case you were wondering.
The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
1155 E. 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
- Mon: Closed
- Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
- Wed: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Have you been to the Oriental Institute? Tell us about your experience in the comments! Check out our Hyde Park neighborhood guide for help in planning your museum trip, or discover more hidden gems and free attractions in Chicago.