Raising the Relief: The Journey of the Winged Genie

When the capital of the Assyrian Empire was moved in the 9th century B.C.E. to what is now Nimrud, Iraq, a new palace for King Ashurnasirpal II was built and adorned with ornate alabaster reliefs. One such carving, which depicts a winged deity pollinating a date palm tree, became Middlebury’s first art acquisition when it was bequeathed to the college by alumnus Rev. Wilson A. Farnsworth in 1854.


Winged Genie Pollinating the Date Palm. Alabaster, 90 by 94 inches. 883-859 B.C.E. Photo: Middlebury College Museum of Art


Rev. Farnsworth had been serving as a missionary in eastern Turkey when the archaeological exhumation of the old palace was taking place and managed to secure one of several unearthed slabs. Now known as the “Winged Genie,” the carving contains a cuneiform inscription extolling the wonders of the king. Upon purchase, Rev. Farnsworth had it cut into sections that could be more easily transported on camelback to the coast. After a long sea voyage, the relief found its way onto a wall in the Library of the Department of Pedagogy in Old Chapel.


The “Winged Genie” slab was gifted to Middlebury College by Reverend Wilson A. Farnsworth, Class of 1848, seen here at age 87 in 1910.


By 1936, a college newsletter lamented the lack of attention given to the artwork by students and alumni, adding that “occasionally some archaeologist who [had] never heard of Middlebury’s football team, its summer schools, its mountain campus or its academic rating [would arrive] to do obeisance” to the carving. Perhaps in a move to raise the relief’s profile, it was hung in the entryway of the newly-constructed Munroe Hall in 1941. As the following clip from the College’s 16mm film archive demonstrates, people were more than happy to become familiar with the carving.


After gaining recognition from the college community and a fair amount of wear and tear, a campaign was launched in 1988 to raise funds for the cleaning and conservation of the slab. Complete with a new steel frame, the Winged Genie is now on permanent display in the Middlebury College Museum of Art where students and archaeologists alike can offer their obeisance.


Removal of Winged Genie from Munroe Hall
Twenty one segments of the slab are carefully removed from Munroe Hall by Museum staff Ken Pohlman and Harvard conservator Henry Lie for transport to the conservation lab at Harvard University. Photo by Eric Borg, February 1990.


Be sure to attend the November 5th lecture, Ancient Near Eastern Art—in New England and in the News, to learn more about the legacy of Near Eastern Art in American museums from Prof. Susan Ackerman of the American Schools of Oriental Research and Prof. Shalom Goldman of the Middlebury Department of Religion.

KeyServer update – This Friday

This Friday November 6, 2015 from 6:30-8:30am – ITS will be updating a software license server (KeyServer).  The only software that will be offline during this time is the Final Draft software.  We hope this will not cause any inconvenience and that those using the software can build this downtime into their plans.  Please feel free to contact me directly if you have concerns.

Weekly Web Updates – November 2, 2015

New Features

The latest update to the Drupal Monster Menus module introduces some features to make managing your content simpler. When you click on the Reorder link in the Edit Console you can now drag content from the main “Content” region of the page into one of the other regions, like Right Sidebar or Carousel. Also, when you delete a node that appears on more than one page you now have the option to remove it from just the current page or from all of the pages.

We still need to do a bit of work to get this configured, but this update also allows us to clear the cache when you edit a node on the site, meaning that you’ll no longer need to wait five minutes to see your changes reflected on the live site. We expect to have this set up by next week.


Tweaks & Fixes

  • The 2016 Online Donor Roll is now live.
  • The dateline on MIIS news stories will now just include the date and not the time.

Special Collections & Archives Celebrates Founder’s Day

To mark Founder’s Day, the original Middlebury College Charter signed by the Governor of Vermont on November 1st, 1800 will be on view in Special Collections, 101 Davis Family Library, on Nov. 2nd. from 1p-5p.
Can’t make out the cursive? Read the transcript here.

  The charter represents both the incipit of our College's narrative as well as the laborious road to the college charter itself. After two failed petitions to the Vermont General Assembly in 1789 and 1799, Middlebury faced opposition from the institution that received the first university charter, the University of Vermont. Though UVM had been chartered in 1791, it's doors had yet to open. Fearful of losing their state funding, UVM tried to block Middlebury's establishment. However, due to the state's population increase (Vermont's population grew from 84,000 to 154,000 between 1791 and 1800) and UVM's slow start, there was a clear need for another institution to educate Vermonters at home. Middlebury, with its newly constructed Academy Building (a $4,150 project funded by public subscriptions) founded by Gamaliel Painter, proved the perfect place to serve the College and Vermonters at large. Thus, the town's college was founded with the signing of the charter, just 39 years after the town of Middlebury itself was chartered. Source: Stameshkin, David M. 1985. The Town's College: Middlebury College, 1800-1915. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press.

Multiple-copy withdrawals

You may have noted some withdrawal work going on the D-F ranges lately. Collections Management and Circulation Services are working together to remove multiple copies with very low circulation, in order to recover some badly needed space for routine stacks operations. In D and E, many shelves are completely full, with the remainder overcrowded. In F, many shelves are overcrowded, and all three ranges are strong growth areas.

Overall, 5.1% of the items in those three ranges are being withdrawn as multiple copies with low usage. Further ranges to be analyzed and weeded are JC-JV, K, P-PC, and PN. Duplicate items with any significant usage (more than 5 combined checkouts and renewals) are being retained, and in the process checked for condition. In all cases where items are withdrawn, the copy in better condition is retained.

Please note that no titles are being withdrawn entirely. Overall bibliographic coverage will not be affected; nor will the EAST data or programmatic weeding to be done later.

Prof. Shalom Goldman, guest DJ on WRMC’s Stacks & Tracks

Our first guest DJ, Professor Shalom Goldman (Religion) joins Stacks & Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show

Monday, November 2, 9am-10am

Tune-in to hear a half-century of rock, folk, reggae, and punk music, inspired by biblical stories.
With commentary, of course.

91.9FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone