Happy Birthday to Us!
Happy 75th Birthday Griffith Institute! On this day, January 21st 1939, the Griffith Institute was officially opened by the former director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic Kenyon.
The building, designed by the architect Mr. E. Stanley Hall, was created to provide a study and research environment for Oxford’s Egyptology and Assyriology teaching staff and the Topographical Bibliography project. Professor Griffith’s Library, which was almost certainly the most impressive collection of Egyptology and Near Eastern books in private hands at that time, formed the heart of the Library, and has placed it as one of the most complete libraries of its kind in the world today. Griffith’s collection was merged with the Ashmolean Museum’s Assyriology Library, and the Egypt Exploration Society’s collection of papyri, transferred from Queen’s College.
It was funded by a generous bequest to the University, Professor and Mrs Griffith bequeathed their joint estates for the express purpose of creating ‘a permanent home or institute for the study of the ancient languages and antiquities of the Near East’.
The opening ceremony was covered by both the local and national press, with The Times quoting Sir Frederic as saying “The Griffith Institute would fill up gaps in the careers of archaeologists. No one expected archaeology to be a goldmine, but it ought to be possible to earn a competence at it, for archaeologists could not live on potsherds alone” – a sentiment shared by many people in our field today!