The exhibition "Archaeologists and Travelers in Ottoman Lands" takes a look at the accomplishments, struggles, and fortunes of three individuals whose lives intersected at Nippur: Osman Hamdi Bey, museum director, archaeologist, and internationally renowned Turkish painter; John Henry Haynes, American archaeologist and photographer; and Hermann Vollrath Hilprecht, a German archaeologist, Assyriologist, and professor at Penn. The year 2010 marks the centennial of the deaths of Hamdi Bey and Haynes, and the demise of Hilprecht’s career due to scandal.
Featured are two paintings by Osman Hamdi Bey: "Excavations at Nippur," which has never before been on public exhibition, and "At the Mosque Door," which is shown for the first time in one hundred years. Also shown are about 50 photographs by Haynes, whose contributions as an archaeological photographer are only now being recognized, and more than 40 artifacts from the Nippur expedition (1889–1900), including a Parthian “slipper” coffin, Sasanian incantation bowls and glass, and numerous Sumerian cuneiform tablets.
This accompanying catalogue frames the time in which the Nippur expedition occurred, looking at American engagement with the Ottoman Empire. The life and activities of Hamdi Bey are compared to the work and fate of other observers and modernizers. The phenomenon of travel for study and archeological discovery is highlighted as is the uses and meaning of photography in the late 19th century.