The VRC on the Trail of Art: The Dura Europas Synagogue
As the VRC works to transition further to a digital model, we have taken the opportunity to open every cabinet and drawer to prioritize our collection. This experience has given us a research gift every day.
Pictured here is one such gift. The image, scanned from a lantern slide in our collection, is a photo of the Dura Europos Synagogue taken in the 1930s at an excavation of the Hellenistic city Dura Europos, in modern-day Syria. Several sources cite it as one of the oldest known synagogues, dating from 243/244 CE. The excavation was led by Yale and the French Academy of Inscriptions. Clark Hopkins, the director of the excavation, came to Michigan from Yale in 1935.
The handwritten note on the image reads “Dura Synagogue Torah Shrine just excavated.” Note the large format field camera in the shot to show the ongoing documentation work. The paintings from the excavation represent the Old Testament and now reside in the National Museum of Damascus.
The processing of these underused documentary collections has left us fresh-faced with a better understanding of the academic breadth of our collection. There is no shortage of this type of original documentary photography at the VRC as well as beautifully shot images of art. As we “excavate” our gems, we will be sure to share them. They remind us of the outstanding projects associated with our faculty and alumni. At the VRC we are proud to continue to represent art as well as the history of the department.
My Dura-Europas, The Letters of Susan M. Hopkins, 1927-1935, contextualized and annotated by Bernhard and Norma Goldman, 2011, Wayne State University Press.
Circa 1932 image of Dura Europos excavation primarily led by Yale.