Towards the end of the nineteenth at the end of the Ottoman Empire, British, American, French, and German archaeological expeditions began exploring the Holy Land. In 1919 the British Mandate in Palestine and Transjordan began. The British devoted much effort to archaeology in the land and in 1920 established the Mandatory Department of Antiquities. The department was responsible for supervising all archaeological activity in Palestine and for protecting the ancient sites.
In 1925 the founder and director of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, James Henry Breasted, visited Palestine. He was surprised by the city’s lack of an archaeological museum. Lord Plumer, the British High Commissioner encourages him and approached John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to help raise funds for the construction of a museum in Jerusalem. Rockefeller agreed to donate two million dollars toward the project the sum of. The site of Kerem el-Sheik was chosen for the building just outside the northeastern corner of the Old City walls.
Austen St. Barbe Harrison, the chief architect of the Mandatory Department of Public Works assigned to the project. The foundation stone was laid on June 19, 1930. Its official name was ‘The Palestine Archaeological Museum’, the building soon became known as the ‘Rockefeller Museum’. On January 13, 1938 the museum opened its doors to the public.
In May 1948 the British High Commissioner founded an international board of trustees, consisting of twelve members representing scholarly institutions around the world, to be responsible for the museum’s management. This board continued to function until 1966, when the museum was nationalized by King Hussein of Jordan. A few months later, at the close of the Six Day War in the summer of 1967, the Rockefeller Museum was transferred to Israeli hands. The management of the building and its contents was entrusted to two institutions: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums.
The Rockefeller Museum
Sultan Suleman Street
Sunday: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 10 am – 3 pm
Saturday and Holidays: 10 am – 2 pm
Tuesday, Friday: Closed