The orient generally refers to East Asia, but the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute is dedicated to the Middle East. It is one of the world's premier research institutions regarding the region's archaeology and history. The Institute was founded in 1919, and the art deco building it's housed in was completed in 1930. The collection is largely due to the efforts of James Henry Breasted, who sponsored a series of archaeological digs in the region following the First World War.
Galleries are dedicated to ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia. There are more than 100,000 objects in the collection. Highlights include a reconstruction of an 8th century BC Assyrian palace. The museum also houses a 5m tall statue of King Tut taken from Luxor, the largest Egyptian statue in the western hemisphere. It really is impossible to do the collection justice without seeing it in person, though. Be sure to check out the gift shop, which has a lot of interesting books and souvenirs for sale.
Though it is often overlooked by tourists, the Oriental Institute Museum is truly excellent. The collection of Near Eastern artifacts is among the best in the world. Anyone interested in Middle Eastern culture, or archaeology in general needs to visit. You could easily spend an entire day here taking it all in.
Address: 1155 East 58th Street
Telephone: (773) 702 9514
Train: 59th Street-University of Chicago (Metra)
Hours: Open Tuesday through Saturday 10:00-18:00; Sundays 12:00-18:00
Admission (suggested donation):