A very important asset for NELC students at Penn is the unsurpassed resources of the Penn Libraries and the Penn Museum which are exceptionally strong in the fields covered by NELC. These play a central role in teaching and in the research of our students and faculty. They afford hands-on contact with many of the texts and artifacts that are the primary sources of their study.
The Museum's Babylonian Section houses the second largest collection of cuneiform tablets in the U.S. (ca. 30,000 tablets) and the most important collection of Sumerian literature in the world; it also houses the files of the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary project. Penn faculty and graduate students are involved in decipherment and publication of the tablets and the preparation of the dictionary. In the Tablet Room, students can hold original copies of the Sumerian Flood Story and part of the Gilgamesh Epic in their hands and study them. The Egyptian Section houses approximately 40,000 Egyptian artifacts, by far the largest university collection in the U.S. and among the largest in the world. The section continues more than a century of ongoing field work in Egypt and students often are members of its archeological and epigraphic expeditions. The Near East Section has the largest collection of Israelite and Canaanite artifacts outside of Israel. Some NELC courses include guided tours of both the public exhibits and restricted-access collections of the museum. The Museum's Islamic Room has a remarkable collection of Islamic artifacts.
The Van Pelt Library and Museum Library, along with the library of the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies (CAJS), house superb collections in all areas of Near Eastern studies, including ancient Mesopotamia, Egyptology, Hebrew & Judaica, and Arabic & Islamic studies. The library's practice is to acquire every important new work pertaining to the region. The collections include between over 400,000 volumes in Bible, biblical archaeology, and Judaica (including rare books and manuscripts), one of the five largest and most important such collections in the United States. Students regularly use the excellent reference collection in Van Pelt Library's Judaica and Ancient Near East Seminar Room for class preparation, research, and collaboration with each other.
Van Pelt Library's Middle East Collection ranks in the top ten among American research institutions, with over 90,000 volumes in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and other pertinent languages, in fields such as history, Islamic studies, and literature. The Middle East Seminar Room provides a place for students in the field to consult scholarship and exchange ideas.