Date: January 11, 2023
As I learn about General Theological Seminary, there are many parts. So, yesterday, Senior Vice Presidents Melody Knowles and Michael DeLashmutt visited the Sterling Memorial Library to view the Hoffman collection of clay tablets from the Assyrian empire that are currently on loan from General Theological Seminary.
We were shown around by Dr. Agnete W. Lassen, the Associate Curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection. As we looked at these tablets, ranging in age from 2,000-4,000 years, we marveled. As we talked we learned that an additional and quite significant tablet, Hoffman collection number one, is in the New York Metropolitan Museum. The rest of the collection comprised some 200 tablets housed in 8 drawers in the Sterling Memorial Library. One interesting feature of the collection’s journey is that Ettalene Mears Grice, an extraordinary Assyriologist and one of the few woman in the area, made the Hoffman collection the focus of her study in the 1920s.
One vitally important role of an academic institution is to safeguard the record of the past. These items are literally irreplaceable. Our knowledge of these remarkable cultures that created the present are dependent on the record of the past. Learning is about knowing, and our knowing depends on a careful curation of the past.
I am grateful for the predecessors of General who took such care of these items. And I think it was wise that the Board of General decided to entrust these items to Yale. Slowly they are helping us to understand this amazing empire that had such an impact on the shaping of the Middle East.
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary and President of General Theological Seminary