Views of Palestine from the air, Jerusalem. A closer view of the former Palestine Archaeological Museum. Source: Library of Congress.

The Former Museum 

James Henry Breasted, founder and director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, suggested opening an archaeological museum in the walls of Jerusalem. The concept for the museum was conceived in the 1920’s, during the British Mandate in Palestine. Encouraged by Lord Plumer, Britain’s High Commissioner, Breasted approached philanthropist John D. Rockefeller for funding the museum project. The Palestine Archaeological Museum became a repository in Jerusalem for antiquities discovered locally– collections would no longer be exported to Europe. This demonstrated a more forward thinking approach on behalf of the British, which progressed from the customary approaches of colonial archaeologists. Rockefeller donated two million dollars in 1926; funding was allotted towards construction and initial operating expenses of the museum. The Palestine Archaeological Museum officially opened in 1938.

The Palestine Archaeological Museum was jointly managed by King Hussein and an international board of trustees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. On November 1, 1966, King Hussein nationalized the museum releasing its possession to the Kingdom of Jordan and the Jordanian Antiquities Authority. The building was captured by the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israel Antiquities Authority seized the collections when the Six Day War in 1967 erupted; the museum was then supplanted by the Rockefeller Museum.

The Rockefeller Museum is a cultural institution which instills a new collective memory throughout the annexed territory.

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