This article orginally appeared in the Hyde Park Herald
By Daschell M. Phillips
The Oriental Institute’s exhibit “Our Work: Modern Jobs — Ancient Origins” opened on Aug. 20 and will run through Feb. 23. The exhibit explores the correlation of the modern workplace to its ancient origins.
Highlights of the exhibit at the Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 5th St., include portraits feature South Siders, including several Hyde Park-Kenwood residents; photos by photographer Jason Reblando, who used tintype — a 19th century photographic process — and video recordings of modern day professionals in their workplace. An oral history project for Chicago Public Schools students will also be offered in conjunction with the exhibit.
“With this exhibit we are putting a face on the ancient,” said Jack Green, chief curator at the Oriental Institute. “We always look at objects but this time we are personalizing and humanizing the ancient world.”
Green said exhibits like “Our Work” that include portraits of modern day people with ancient artifacts have been done before but the Oriental Institute chose to add the subject of work because it wanted its version to have an educational component.
When creating an exhibit, the Oriental Institute staff is used to only dealing with specialists, so incorporating people from a variety of backgrounds and not having control over the direction of the exhibit was a new experience for the team.
Green said the uncertainty made the experience more exciting.
“Each professional had strong and amazing connections to the artifacts,” Green said.
Clock and watchmaker Charles Dyrkacz, for example, said he could fix the flaws he found in the ancient Egyptian Water clock (created between 284-246 B.C.) he posed next to for the exhibit. Green also said he was touched by the emotional reaction of poet Haki Madhubuti, who posed next to the Epic of Gilgamesh tablet from Iraq (created between1800-1600 B.C.), once he learned how long the tablet had been preserved and shared through the ages.
For more information, visit oi.uchicago.edu.