We Start Here: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago at 100

About the Talk

This presentation includes highlights of a century of Oriental Institute (OI) fieldwork, research, and collections as well as our current projects and the recent reinstallation of the OI Museum. One hundred years ago, James Henry Breasted founded the Oriental Institute with a radical idea: who we are — how we live as humans together — began not in Greece or Rome but in a region of the ancient Middle East that he vividly named the Fertile Crescent. His legacy of intellectual innovation lives on at the OI today, with our work assuming an extraordinary array of forms. We conduct definitive fieldwork projects that shape archaeology, and we discover ancient settlements and their landscapes through state-of-the-art satellite and digital imaging methods. Our linguistic research furthers the decipherment of ancient languages, and we produce dictionaries that serve as cultural encyclopedias for understanding ancient civilizations. We record, document, and preserve imperiled cultural heritage, and we educate the public through our Museum displays, exhibitions, and programming. The OI was founded with a determination to look where others didn’t, and we continue to offer new ways of thinking about what connects us and why, remaining committed to advancing our knowledge of the ancient Middle East.


  • Christopher Woods
    John A. Wilson Professor of Sumerian
    Director, Oriental Institute
    The University of Chicago
  • Jean M. Evans
    Chief Curator and Deputy Director,
    Research Associate, Oriental Institute
    The University of Chicago

Program Rundown

6:30 pm Registration and Reception
7:00 pm Opening Remarks
7:05 pm Presentation by Christopher Woods and Jean Evans
7:50 pm Q&A
8:00 pm Ends