Petitioning President Salovey

Save the Yale Babylonian Collection

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Dear President Salovey:

As you wrote in July 2015, the Yale Babylonian Collection (YBC) is “a jewel among Yale’s extraordinary cultural-heritage holdings.”

The April 2017 report of the ten-member Advisory Committee for the YBC, which was initiated by Provost Ben Polak, chaired by Deputy Provost Susan Gibbons, and included only two Assyriologists, will destroy this jewel forever. 

The report’s main recommendations are as follows:

  • Take away the independent status of the YBC, established at its founding in 1909.
  • Dispense with the services of the tenured faculty Assyriologist Curator, as of 1 July 2017.
  • Move the YBC (at a date left open-ended) from Sterling Library, where it has benefited since the 1930s from the unique synergy created by the purpose-built proximity of artifacts, classroom, workrooms, and its own research library. 
  • Replace direct and unimpeded scholarly access with digitization, effectively spelling the end of the YBC’s distinguished publication series.
  • Hire a 1-year “conservation fellow” to make an “assessment,” based perforce on no input from faculty Assyriologists or other curators of cuneiform tablets.

We, the undersigned, urge you to save the YBC from these recommendations.  If they are implemented, it will cease to exist as one of the world’s pre-eminent centers for the study of cuneiform tablets and other Mesopotamian materials, and the only place among its peer collections where teaching, learning, and scholarly dissemination are fully integrated into all its activities (http://babylonian-collection.yale.edu).

Ignoring the threats to the Mesopotamian past in New Haven is inconsistent with your previously stated concern for global cultural heritage.  You have an opportunity to make rescuing the YBC a defining moment of your presidency. 

Save the Babylonian Collection, Yale’s extraordinary jewel!

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