Karen L. Wilson
(Kish Project Coordinator, Field Museum of Natural History Chicago, USA)
The Field Museum of Natural History has embarked upon a project to publish, in both print and digital form, and in both English and Arabic, the results of excavations that took place from 1923-1933 at the site of Kish, 80km south of Baghdad. Using currently available technologies including scanners, digital cameras, computers, and the world wide web, the museum will virtually reunite, and present to the world, collections now housed in Chicago, Oxford, and Baghdad.
Kish was one of the world’s first true cities. For 10 years, joint archaeological expeditions of The Field Museum and Oxford University explored the 24-square-kilometer site’s 40 mounds. Following each season, the finds were divided between the Iraq Museum and the two excavating institutions. For over eighty years, the three collections remained divided, effectively precluding the production of a full site report for this crucial Mesopotamian city.
To rectify this lack of scientific publication, The Field Museum plans to fully document and reconcile the Kish collections and excavation records held by all three institutions. Unification of these widely scattered and diverse materials—objects, cataloging data, field cards, photographs, 16mm film, correspondence between project participants—previously was all-but-impossible. Now, modern technologies facilitate the production of relational databases linking digital versions of all these sources.
The project will produce a full synthetic catalog of the three Kish collections (work in Baghdad being undertaken as politics and safety permit). The catalog will be published in both Arabic and English as a Fieldiana monograph. It also will be disseminated as a web-based database, again in both English and Arabic, accessed through the Field Museum website.
This synthetic catalog of Kish collections will facilitate a true reckoning of the history of one of the world’s first cities and will stand as a model of intellectual repatriation of exported archaeological collections.