Given the riches of the Oriental Institute, you might be tempted to skip the modest display of artifacts, letters and photographs commemorating founder James Henry Breasted's first expedition to Egypt and what are now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
But resist that urge. In counterpoint to historical materials, some displayed in cases made to look like wooden packing crates, a contemporary narrative mounted on white panels creates a two-track presentation. As a result, "Pioneers to the Past" triggers interesting insights into the way archaeology has evolved.
Breasted, we learn, helped change our understanding of Western civilization, which earlier scholars believed sprang from Greece and Rome. He helped trace its roots instead to what he called "the Fertile Crescent," a curl of land bordered by the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where people developed the first cities some 8,000 years ago and four millennia later invented the wheel and writing.