The Oriental Institute


By Bronwyn Soell

A colossal statue of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Giant stone walls from the throne room of King Sargon II of Assyria. A massive bull's head that once guarded the Hundred Columned Hall of Persepolis. These are just some of the treasures at the Oriental Institute.

Founded in 1919 to promote research of ancient cultures and housing the work of archeological digs sponsored by the University of Chicago, the Oriental Institute is located in the heart of the university's Hyde Park campus.

Park in an inexpensive campus garage and enjoy a walk through the campus' Gothic architecture (gargoyle hunts!), taking in the busy student life and charming neighborhood of Hyde Park.

Admission into the museum is free, but donations are accepted. It's an ideal place to visit when you have school projects to research.

But the real reason to visit is that these are artifacts you won't see anywhere else. Helpful attendants volunteer detailed information about the collections, and kids also learn about modern careers in archeology, using satellites to map out ancient city sites and translating dead languages such as Hittite.

Later, head down 57th Street to Medici, a local favorite for pizza, sandwiches or brunch. Kids and adults alike can join generations of college students and sign their names on the walls and tables. If you don't want a sit-down meal, visit Medici's takeout deli/bakery next door and get snacks and drinks to go.

Up the block is 57th Street Books, one of the best independent bookstores in the city. Filled with major publisher and small press books, it features a wonderful selection for both older kids and little ones. We had a hard time leaving without at least one book for everyone and went home full of pizza, ideas for projects and memories of a great day.


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