Letter from the Director

In this year of pandemic that will be long remembered as the time when the globe seemed almost to come to a standstill, ISAW has much reason to be thankful that we have been able to sustain and in some ways even to enhance our central activities of teaching, research, and public outreach. On March 5 we held our inaugural ISAW Archaeology Day in the Oak Library and the Lecture Hall, showcasing the archaeological work of our students, scholars, and faculty for a large and engaged audience of friends and colleagues from NYU and the New York area. We did not yet realize that this would be our last in-person public event of 2020, and perhaps the last for more than a year. Just a week later, we were all discovering the challenges of remote teaching; our galleries, with our spectacular exhibition A Wonder to Behold, had to close their doors; and the building had to be shut to all but a tiny number of essential people. Our story since then has been one of landing, but landing on our feet, in an unfamiliar world in which we found ourselves scattered over three continents, and separated by geography and the emergency health rules from each other and from our books and other physical resources.

Community at ISAW has always meant more than just intellectual exchanges but also fostering mutual engagement through common "rituals" such as our morning coffee and afternoon tea in the Oak Library. This investment paid off abundantly in helping us to support each other and keep us connected through the toughest months of the spring and summer. Our administrative and digital teams have worked creatively and almost superhumanly to keep us up and running. Our students took on the special challenge of ensuring that our incoming class in September would genuinely become part of the community despite the limits on gathering in person. 

If you wonder how ISAW has fared and is faring in carrying out its mission, you just have to browse through the articles of this newsletter. We continue to see, with pride, our doctoral students defending their dissertations and graduating, and a promising and varied incoming cohort of students and scholars has joined us from the USA and abroad. Our faculty achieve milestones in their careers, and notwithstanding the current obstacles in the way of travel and working abroad, ISAW remains a vibrant place for research with a growing profile in diffusing the knowledge we generate. Lectures and conferences are happening online, but this also means that many colleagues can participate who could not have attended an in-person version. And with our galleries necessarily empty for the time being, our exhibitions team is preparing an exciting new venture, our first digital exhibition. I hope you will share my optimism for this special Institute.