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Introduction and Guide

By Charles E. Jones

Revised March 2003

This document contains the revised text of a pamphlet available in the Research Archives of the Oriental Institute intended as a guide to the collections and their use. Information in this pamphlet is correct as of March 2003.

Fifteenth edition (Seventh electronic edition), March 2003

Research Archives of The Oriental Institute

The Research Archives of the Oriental Institute is a non-circulating collection of books and other publications relating to the ancient Near East for the reference and research of Oriental Institute faculty, staff, students and members. Its materials span the history of the ancient Near East from prehistoric times through the Late Antique period and reflect the interests and work of its users and benefactors. It is not a part of the University of Chicago Library System; the existence of a book, journal or series in the Research Archives bears no relationship to the holdings of the University of Chicago Library System. The following is a guide to the history and use of the collection.


In 1970 the library of the Oriental Institute was moved to the Joseph Regenstein Library and integrated with the newly consolidated collections of the University of Chicago Libraries. The faculty and staff of the Oriental Institute, feeling the need for a reference collection both more extensive than that provided by even the best of private collections maintained by members of the faculty and staff of the Oriental Institute, and more accessible than the university library system, decided to consolidate the various bibliographical resources available in the Oriental Institute.

The Research Archives, as this collection was called, opened in the Autumn of 1972. At that time the collections included the Director's Library (being primarily the private library of James Henry Breasted [Egyptology and general Near Eastern studies]); the Seele library [Egyptology, Archaeology]; the Edgerton library [Egyptology, Demotic and Greek Papyrology]; and remnants of the Megiddo field library [Syro-Palestinian Archaeology]. Since its founding, the Research Archives has benefited from the donation of important collections including the libraries of John Hadley [Assyriology]; Richard T. Hallock [Assyriology, Elamology]; Michael B. Rowton [Assyriology, Syro-Mesopotamian Studies]; Charles F. Nims [Egyptology], and Linda Ricketts [Demotic and Greek Papyrology] In addition, many other individuals have made important contributions of individual titles or small collections, notably the Anna Bruce Mackenzie Memorial Collection [general Near East; Travel; Exploration].

In the summer of 1992, The Research Archives underwent a major reorganization of its physical space. Offices and storage space on the third floor of the Oriental Institute were converted into library space, into which journals and series were moved. In addition to bringing The Research Archives into compliance with University of Chicago building policies, the new arrangement helped restore the original appearance of the Reading Room and provided more space for our ever-expanding collection. However, this reorganization was only temporary. New climate controlled and expanded stacks and research space for the Research Archives is part of the New Wing of the Oriental Institute, and into these new shelves we have moved all the monographs, previously housed in the built-in and low, free-standing shelves in the Reading Room. The new stacks has enough shelf space for the existing monographic holdings with room for about 5 years growth. This expansion has allowed the restoration of two more of the additional tables to the reading room. As of Spring 1998, there are now sixty-four seats available in the reading room.

In recognition of generous support for the Oriental Institute Legacy Campaign the Research Archives Reading Room will be named


Thanks to a challenge grant from the Elizabeth Morse and Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trusts, successfully matched by generous donations from friends of the Oriental Institute, the Reading Room has ben restored. The restoriation included entirely new wiring, replacing the cork floor, and installing task and personal computer wiring to all the tables in the room. In the summer of 2001 we installed newly built lighting replicating the original fixtures.

The Oriental Institute has made a substantial commitment to complete the holdings of the Research Archives in the fields represented by the scholarship of its faculty and staff. To this end, individual volumes and complete runs have been (and continue to be) purchased to complete our holdings in serial and periodical publications. The major thrust of purchased acquisitions in the past few years, however, has been in the current literature in the appropriate fields of Ancient Near Eastern Studies With holdings of over 35,000 volumes, the Research Archives is a unique resource due to the breadth of its coverage of the Ancient Near East and the availability of its resources.


The reading room of the Research Archives is open to faculty, staff and members of the Oriental Institute; and to students in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. All others desiring to use the Research Archives are expected to enroll as members of the Oriental Institute. Information on membership is available in the lobby of the Research Archives, at the Suq in the Museum lobby, or from the Membership office (Room 233).

Hours of operation during the academic year are:

Monday-Tuesday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Thursday-Friday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Hours during interim periods and holidays are changeable and will be posted. Those who plan on using the Archives during interim periods and holidays, and those who are coming from out of town to use the Archives at any time throughout the year, should call ahead to confirm that the Archives will be open. The phone number is (773) 702-9537. The Research Archives staff may also be contacted by Fax at (773) 702-9853 and by electronic mail at:


Regulations and Information

Please observe the following regulations:
  1. NO FOOD and NO DRINKS are allowed in the Research Archives.

  2. Books DO NOT CIRCULATE, except:

  3. Reshelve books! Patrons are responsible for reshelving the books they are using. Reshelve books correctly: A mis-shelved book is a lost book. All books left on the tables will be removed by the staff, except:

  4. If a book is not where you expect it to be, please check the card catalogue, the on-line catalogue and the books on the tables before consulting the staff.

  5. Avoid photocopying if possible. Photocopying damages books. If you must photocopy, please do so with care.

  6. All new acquisitions are shelved on the northern wall of the Reading Room for at least one month before shelving. New books do not circulate.

  7. Please remember to be quiet.


The Research Archives has two photocopy machines available for its patrons' use. Magnetic cards for the photocopy machines (10¢/copy) are for sale in the Research Archives Office at a cost of $1.00 during regular business hours. Value van be added to the card on the card reader on the copier in the stacks. The card is rechargeable. It is aso possible to use cash to make phtocopies (15¢/copy) on the machine in the stacks. Photocopy accounts codes are available to students, faculty and staff only at the discretion of the Administrative Officer of the Oriental Institute (Room 235). The staff of the Research Archives will not photocopy any materials for patrons. Most of the material in the Research Archives is protected under the copyright laws of the United States; users of the photocopy machines are responsible for any violation of these laws.

Once again, we ask that you exercise care in copying from older or more fragile books; if you wish to photocopy from such items, please consult the Archives staff first. In a few cases, books have a sticker on the cover which reads "Please do not photocopy this volume;" this is only done in the case of very easily damaged materials and we ask that you observe the request.

Reserve materials for classes

Since the entire Research Archives, being a non-circulating collection, is "on reserve," Research Archives materials are not put on reserve for classes. In some cases, where instructors wish to place non-Archives materials "on reserve" in the Archives, they are placed on top of the western folio case. As in the case of regular Archives materials, these reserve items do not circulate, and should be returned to the reserve shelf.

The Research Archives On-Line Catalogue

Access to the on-line catalogue of the Research Archives is available on the World Wide Web:
There are several terminals in the Research Archives, each of them is connected to the internet. Please recerve the two "stand-up" terminals for the used of the catalogues and restrict your other use to the two computers on the reading room tables. The Research Archives On-Line Catalogue contains entries for materials catalogued in the Research Archives since 1987, and complete analytics (essays, articles and book reviews) for materials catalogued since 1990. The On-Line Catalogue also includes some earlier materials; retrospective cataloguing of the entire collection will ultimately make all Research Archives materials accessible by computer. At present, The Research Archives On-Line Catalogue contains nearly one hundred and twenty thousand entries, searchable through a sensitive, high-speed library database program.

The Catalogue of the Oriental Institute Library (i.e. the collection which was moved to University of Chicago Regenstein Library in 1970) is shelved in the Bibliography section at the bottom of the stairs. This catalogue gives access to the Regenstein Library's pre-1970 material via call numbers. Access to the University of Chicago On-line Catalogue is available via the dedicated web-browser by the stairs.


All publications of the Research Archives are electronic and archived at:


The Reading Room

The Research Archives is housed in the former quarters of the old Oriental Institute Library. The Reading Room, which was described by James Henry Breasted as "the most beautiful room in the building," retains most of the original decorative elements and furnishings from when the Oriental Institute was completed in 1931. Of particular note are the "Lotus" Window in the south wall, with its Egyptian-style design, the wood carvings on the north wall, and the elaborately painted ceiling. Overlooking the Reading Room is the Minstrel's Gallery, which now houses the periodicals collection. the reading room is named The Elizabeth Morse Genius Reading Room and was recently renovated thanks to generous donations from the Elizabeth Morse and Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trusts.

Guide to the Location of Books in the Research Archives

The Research Archives uses a simple (if occasionally idiosyncratic) system of organization There are nine categories of books. The category of a book can be determined on the basis of the call number in the left hand margin of the card catalogue entry.

no call number
Shelved alphabetically by author / editor in the New Wing.
Shelved alpha-numerically by call number in the south room of the upper level.
Current issues of some journals are kept in the slots on the east wall of the Reading Room.
Shelved alpha-numerically by call number in the built-in cases in the reading room, and in the two banks of free-standing stacks, also in the reading room.
Filed alphabetically by author in the file cabinets on the Upper Level.
Shelved in various places: On the south wall of the Staircase room (modern language dictionaries, Bibliographical materials), on the western folio case (Egyptology, Cuneiform languages and NW Semitic languages), and in the hall stacks on the upper level (Islamics, Encyclopedias, Bible translations).
Shelved alphabetically on the West Wall of the New Wing.
Shelved alpha-numerically by case and shelf number in the folio cases. Please ask for help in locating folios.
Shelved in the Map Room, and in the Office. Please ask for help locating microform materials. Microform reader is in the Map Room.
Located in the Map Room on the upper level.

In summary, monographs and oversize are shelved in the New Wing, reference, folios, and series are shelved on the main level, journals, maps, pamphlets and microforms on the upper level.


Maintaining the Research Archives is a cooperative effort. If you can't find what you are looking for, check with me or one of my assistants; if you think a book is miscatalogued or lost, let us know; if you think we should have a book, request it...



Revised: March 31, 2003
Copyright 2006 Oriental Institute, University of Chicago