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UChicago's Oriental Institute changes name to Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa

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CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago has changed its name to the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa (ISAC).

The U of C reported the change is intended to reflect the geographic focus of the research and scholarship conducted by institute. UChicago Provost Katherine Baicker wrote the changes in the usage and meaning of the word "oriental" also factored into the name change.

The institute began addressing issues regarding its name back in 2021 – when it organized a committee of U of C faculty, staffers, students, supporters and other stakeholders – as well as representatives of peer institutes.

"Although the institute's name has changed, our mission remains the same," Professor Theo van den Hout, the institute's interim director, said in a UChicago news release. "The Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures continues to strive to be one of the world's leading research centers on the ancient cultures of West Asia and North Africa. The new name better represents the breadth and depth of the diversity of our work as we continue to generate and showcase field-defining research and scholarship."

The University Of Chicago
The Mummy and Coffin of Meresamun at the former Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in Chicago, United States, on October 18, 2022. Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The ISAC was founded in 1919 as the first research institute at the U of C. The institute has been behind high-profile language projects such as the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, the Hittite Dictionary, and the Demotic Dictionary, UChicago said.

The institute has always been involved in field projects in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Sudan, Turney, and Spain.

(Photo Credit: Oriental Institute- University of Chicago's Facebook)

The Oriental Institute Museum, or OI Museum, is now called the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures Museum (ISAC Museum).    

The museum is home to 350,000 objects – mainly discovered during expeditions between the 1920s and the 1940s. The highlights of the institute include galleries of artifacts from Mesopotamia, Persia, Nubia, the Assyrian Empire, Syria and Anatolia, and the ancient city of Megiddo. The institute also features the Yelda Khorsabad Court – a re-creation of the palace courtyard of the Assyrian King Sargon II.

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