There are approximately 330,000 objects in the collection of the Department of the Middle East. A representative selection of around 4,500 objects, including the most important pieces, is on display. The rest forms the study collection which ranges in size from beads to large sculptures.
All the material in the collection, whether on display or in storage, is made freely available for use by students and scholars in the departmental study room.
The study collection includes a large number of cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia and surrounding regions, large collections of pottery from all parts of the Middle East (both complete and fragmentary), Neolithic and later chipped stone assemblages, seals of all periods, beads, jewellery, glass vessels, magical bowls, figurines, metalwork, small stone objects, pieces of sculpture and even modern plaster casts of ancient sculptures not in the Museum (particularly from Iran). There are also excavated plant remains, wood, shell, animal-bone and human remains.
If you wish to look at objects in the study collection or on display, please contact the relevant curator(s) in the department for an appointment as far in advance as possible. Your application should include details about your research, a list of the objects you wish to study, and some indication of the timing and length of your proposed stay. It is advisable to confirm an appointment before booking travel or accommodation.
There is a particularly strong demand for tablets, as scholars from around the world come to use this facility. While the department aims to facilitate external research as far as is feasible, there are practical constraints of space, time and staff resources. Please note in particular that we are unable to accommodate requests for visits intended solely to photograph objects, or requiring special imaging equipment or additional personnel. When you plan your visit, you should allow a realistic period of time to study the objects; a maximum of 15 new tablets per day will be issued to each student.
Researchers applying for external grant funding to work with the department's collections are strongly advised to discuss the project with the department and to obtain all necessary permissions well in advance of making any application.
Your application for admission should be supported either by a member of the academic staff of the Museum or by proof of identification (e.g. passport, driving licence), and by a letter of recommendation from an academic institution or a person of recognised authority.
The Study room is located in the historic Arched room. Access is via the shop at the north end of the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery (Room 4), at the bottom of the West stairs. Members of the public can be directed by information staff or find the Arched Room through the Visit Guide, which is available throughout the Museum.
The rich resources of the study collection are also made more widely accessible through handling-classes, behind-the-scenes tours, temporary displays and loans to temporary exhibitions at other institutions.