National Archeology Quarter model 370.
(photo credit: Israel Antiquities Authority)
After decades in the cramped but historic Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem,
the Israel Antiquities Authority on Sunday started construction on the National
Archeology Quarter next to the Israel Museum in the capital’s west.
new 35,000-squaremeter building will hold the headquarters of the IAA as well as
the Israel National Archeology Library, which will be one of the largest
archeology libraries in the Middle East.
The building was designed by
Moshe Safdie and will also include an archeological 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 archeologists conduct research and digs, and items from some of the
20,000 archeological 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
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.
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 archeological 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 Archeology 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.