Associated with the University of Chicago, the Oriental Institute Museum was founded in 1919 and was originally intended as a research laboratory for the investigation of early humankind’s progress from ancient days. The Oriental Institute Museum’s goal is to be the leading center in the world for the study of ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Open to the public in 1931, the Oriental Institute Museum contains many collections obtained on its Middle East expeditions from the 1920s-1940s.
The museum experienced a major reinstallation during the 1990s and early 2000s. The purpose and mission of the museum is to promote interest in and understanding of ancient civilizations of the Middle East, and to explore how they connect to the modern world. Approximately 55,000 local and international visitors access visit the museum each year to experience world-renowned artifacts, photographs, publications, drawings, etc. from areas such as Mesopotamia, Turkey, Egypt, Assyria, Israel and more.
Not to Miss at the Oriental Institute Museum
- Dr. Norman Solhkhah Family Assyrian Empire Gallery. Containing carved ivory plaques, 6-sided inscribed clay prisms, life-size statues, a royal hunting scene and other artifacts from Assyria dating back as far as 700 B.C.
- Joseph and Mary Grimshaw Egyptian Gallery. Housing almost 800 objects that date back as far as 5000 B.C., the Egyptian Gallery contains a 17-ft tall statue of King Tut at the entrance, and features other items such as clothing tools, jewelry, food, music, games, mummies and more.
- The Robert and Deborah Aliber Persian Gallery. With approximately 1000 objects dating from 6800 B.C. to 1000 A.D., this gallery boasts artifacts that show how the Persian cultures have developed over time. Coins, jewelry, pottery, sculptures, and even the colossal head of a bull are located here.
Oriental Institute Museum Amenities
Some of the services and conveniences visitors may enjoy at the Oriental Institute Museum include:
The Suq—Museum Gift Shop
The museum shop makes various gifts and souvenirs available including jewelry, magazines, books, home décor, and many items that are replicas of the artifacts contained in the museum. As it is run by the University of Chicago, the Museum Suq gift shop is a not-for-profit entity and the proceeds go to support various departments and projects within the museum, particularly related to the Research Archives.
Committed to making its programs and services accessible to everyone, the Oriental Institute offers a variety of resources, including:
- Traffic drop-off and ramp access
- Accessible parking
- Wheelchair accessible exhibits with elevators
- Wheelchairs for use in the museum (first-come, first-served)
- FM Assistive Listening Devices
- Service animals are welcome (please notify the museum in advance)
- Complimentary lockers and coat check
Oriental Institute Museum Nearby Attractions
It is quite likely that the Oriental Institute Museum won’t take all day to see. The museum’s location on the University of Chicago campus means that plenty of other options exist for nearby things to do. For visitors looking for other activities nearby, some interesting options within walking distance include:
- Museum of Science and Industry
- DuSable Museum of African American History
- Frederick C. Robie House (by Frank Lloyd Wright)
- Botany Pond at University of Chicago
- Fountain of Time
Getting to the Oriental Institute Museum
1155 East 58th Street, Chicago IL 60637
Access to the Oriental Institute Museum at University of Chicago on the south side is simple by car, bike, or public transportation.
The museum can be accessed via Lake Shore Drive, Stevenson Expressway (I-55), Dan Ryan Expressway (I-94), or the Chicago Skyway.
A public parking garage located at 55th and Ellis Avenue. Street parking can be difficult to locate on the campus during regular University hours but may be more accessible for evenings and weekends. Free parking should be available at Lexington Parking Lot (5835 S. University Ave) after 4pm weekdays as well as on weekends.
CTA bus #6, Red Line Subway to Garfield Blvd/55th Street, or the Metra Train from downtown are all viable options to get to the University Campus.
Bicycle racks area available at the front of the building and can accommodate large groups. A bike station by Divvy (Chicago’s bike sharing organization) is located just a four-minute walk from the Oriental Institute Museum entrance.
When to Go to the Oriental Institute Museum
Tues-Sun 10am-5pm; Open late on Wednesdays until 8pm; Closed on Mondays. Holiday closures may include July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The Oriental Institute Museum may be busier on weekends, so a weekday visit might mean there are fewer people around. However, for those who are driving, parking will be much easier on the weekends.
Oriental Institute Museum Insider Tips
Discounts may be available for students or groups. The museum operates on the basis of a suggested admission donation, which means visitors may ask about the option to pay less, depending on what they can afford.