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Semitic Museum Survives In Shadow of the CFIA


The Harvard Semitic Museum, relegated to the basement of 6 Divinity Ave. since 1958, is planning for the day when it can reclaim the rent of its building from the Center for International Affairs.

Harvard evicted the museum which is under the direction of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literature, from the upper stories of its building and closed it to the public in 1958 to make way for the CFIA.

The museum will be able to reclaim the building when the CFIA moves to the Kennedy Library. G. Ernest Wright, Curator of the Semitic Museum, said yesterday. This will not happen for four or five years, he said.


Wright said that the museum has been cramped for space ever since it was forced to relocate its entire collection in its basement.

Many pieces of art in the museum's collection which had to be stored in crates were damaged or destroyed Father Carney I Gavin director of the museum's volunteer program, said yesterday.

Gavin charged that Harvard has ignored the museum's needs and has shortchanged it financially. "Harvard gives us nothing," he said.

The present state of the Semitic Museum is a tragic waste." Daniel Robbins, director of the Fogg Art Museum, said yesterday.

He said however, that there is little that the museum can do about its situation until the CFIA finds a new home.

Robbins criticized Harvard for "almost wiping out the museum because another thing seemed more important at the time."

He said that Harvards action "show a certain disregard for the importance of a museum as a humanistic institution."

He added that recent bombings aimed at the CFIA have endangered the museum as well.

While the Semitic Museum wants for its chance to reopen to the public. Gavin and a staff of volunteers are cataloguing and photographing its collection.

"We're working against time and decay," he said.


Cavin said that the museum's collection is invaluable to research because archeological finds can no longer be taken out of many Middle Eastern countries.

He said that the cataloguing effort will take four or five years and will be finished at about the time that the museum regains its building.

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