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Ancient Coins at the Art Institute of Chicago...


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On my recent trip to Chicago, we stopped at the downtown Art Institute and happily came across some displays of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coins. They didn't have loads of specimens on display, but what they had seemed fairly decent. It was nice to see some coins, at least. Many similar museums that I've visited included none whatsoever.

This photo contains some of the Greek coins (notice a certain coin displayed "owl down").


The Roman and Byzantine coins sat in a display case with lighting that produced strange bands on the pictures, so the photos did not turn out too well. They had an absolutely fantastic Byzantine solidus of Irene, but my mobile phone camera refused to capture its details, unfortunately.


Sadly, the displays only showed one side of the coins. Almost as consolation, they thankfully stood among a few hallways worth of fantastic antiquities. These would have provided enough eye candy all by themselves. I captured some of my favorites.






The museum also had an amazing medieval section (though no coins). We spent a number of hours roaming through the ancient and modern worlds, as well as just about everything in between.

They were also selling something in the gift shop that I had never seen before: patinated bronze lions in plushy form. Somehow I resisted buying one ("a life without regrets is a life not spent living," is how I will console myself 😁). Maybe on the next visit?


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When my son was an undergraduate at the U of Chicago, we visited the Art Institute a few times when I was in Chicago to see him. A wonderful museum. As is the Oriental Institute at the University in Hyde Park.

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On 7/2/2023 at 6:24 PM, DonnaML said:

When my son was an undergraduate at the U of Chicago, we visited the Art Institute a few times when I was in Chicago to see him. A wonderful museum. As is the Oriental Institute at the University in Hyde Park.

I live in Chicago, Donna and you are exactly right. Both excellent museums. The Oriental Institute is not a huge space physically, but wow is it packed with some amazing artifacts. The giant winged Lamassu sculpture is utterly breathtaking. 

Interestingly, I read recently that the institute changed its name to The Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, West Asia & North Africa (ISAC for short).  

Art Institute is a world class museum as well and is a great spot to bring non-ancient history nerds, because they have so much famous and beautiful art in addition to ancient artifacts. Great way to spend an afternoon. 

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Yes, as said, the Oriental Institute now calls itself "The Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures": https://isac.uchicago.edu/

We really wanted to go there as well, but we only had so much time. We also didn't find ourselves in that part of town for other reasons and getting there required L stops, a bus trip, and some walking (we parked our car downtown and we didn't really want to move it, but we did drive north to the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette). By the time that museum appeared on our list, we had already walked numerous miles, so another walk didn't sound too appealing. We will definitely try to get there next time, though, since it looks fantastic.

I think we spent 4 -5 hours in the Art Institute. We could have spent even more time.

As said on another thread, we also stopped by Harlan Berk and I picked up a Byzantine bronze. Their ancients department was an experience in and of itself. The department, higher up in the amazing Temple Building, was filled with antiquities, bins of cheap ancient coins, and more books than I had time to peruse. One could easily spend an entire day there as well.

Edited by ewomack
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