field trip: oriental institute

There is a treasure of a museum tucked away in Hyde Park, out on East 58th Street, Chicago.  It is within walking distance of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous houses, the Frederick C. Robie House. You can tour the house and walk to the Oriental and make a great day of it.


Entire wall reliefs dwarf ordinary human presence, transporting you to ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and the ancient site of Megiddo.  Pictures do not do it justice — you have to feel this space.

“Roughly half of the Persian Gallery is devoted to artifacts from Persepolis, which thrived from approximately 520 B.C. until, in 331 B.C., Alexander the Great and his troops destroyed it. This portion of the gallery is dominated by a series of colossal sculptures made of polished, black limestone, including the head of a bull that once guarded the entrance to the Hundred-Column Hall and column capitals in the forms of bulls and composite creatures.” – from the Oriental Institute website

One of the few examples in the United States of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

This museum is fairly small – you don’t need an entire day to see everything.  It is well worth a trip to the city, and leaves you time to do other things too.  For me, someone not particularly well versed in history, or even partial to oriental art, this place was surprisingly a wonder.  To be standing next to the massive sculptures transported me to a time and place I never took the time to imagine before.

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