Archaeology Quarter construction begins in Jerusalem

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After decades in the cramped but historic Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority on Sunday started construction on the National Archaeology Quarter next to the Israel Museum in the capital’s west. 

National Archaeology Quarter model [Credit: JPost]

The new 35,000-squaremeter building will hold the headquarters of the IAA as well as the Israel National Archaeology Library, which will be one of the largest archaeology libraries in the Middle East. 

The building was designed by Moshe Safdie and will also include an archaeological garden, classrooms, a coffee shop and laboratory and exhibition space for the Dead Sea Scroll fragments. The IAA owns some 15,000 fragments in addition to the well-known full scrolls owned by the Israel Museum. 

Additionally, the museum will feature exhibitions about how archaeologists conduct research and digs, and items from some of the 20,000 archaeological sites around the country. 

Digging the foundation for the new building took almost a year. After publicizing the tender for a contractor a few months ago, work began on the building itself on Sunday. 

The building will cost “tens of millions of dollars,” according to IAA spokeswoman Yoli Schwartz, and it was funded by 26 major donors. The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Foundation provided a naming grant. 

The Antiquities Authority has used the Rockefeller Museum as its headquarters since the 1970s. Tourists often overlook the historical limestone museum in favor of the snazzier Israel Museum or the more-centrally located Bible Lands Museum. The museum was built by the British and funded in part by John D. Rockefeller, as a place to hold British archaeological discoveries. Today, the Israel Museum is responsible for the museum’s administration. 

Most of the main exhibit at the Rockefeller Museum – which is organized chronologically and identified with yellowing cards neatly typed by a typewriter – hasn’t changed since the museum opened in 1938. In the interior of the building that is closed to the public, 2,000-year-old clay vessels are stacked haphazardly in steel cages for lack of space in proper exhibition halls. 

After construction is completed on the Archaeology Quarter, the Rockefeller Museum will continue to house the exhibits as well as the Jerusalem district office for the IAA. Many of the other IAA offices and laboratories, which are spread out across Jerusalem, will be concentrated in the new building.

Author: Melanie Lidman | Source: Jerusalem Post [June 24, 2012]

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