In 1956, George H. Forsyth, then professor of art history at the University of Michigan (later director of the Kelsey Museum), led a reconnaissance expedition to the Middle East looking for sites to excavate. The team spent five days at Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai, the Mount of Moses, an isolated stronghold the size of a city block. The monastery was founded by Justinian and Theodora in the sixth century (548–565) and is among the finest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. It is also one of the world's oldest active monasteries—a timeless miniature town from another age.
The monastery's splendid art and architecture so impressed Professor Forsyth that he invited his colleague, Professor Kurt Weitzmann from Princeton University, to join him on future expeditions to this remote location. Between 1958 and 1965, Forsyth, Weitzmann, and experts from U-M, Princeton, and the University of Alexandria embarked on four research expeditions to Sinai. Since excavation was impossible for religious reasons, this was to become a unique expedition for the Kelsey Museum—one that consisted entirely of description, measurement, and photography.
A new collaboration between the University of Michigan and Princeton University digitally reunites the "Sinai Archives" that are housed at both institutions. The new website makes available for study, teaching, and research the vast collection of icons, manuscripts, and liturgical objects from Saint Catherine's Monastery. With this project, both Princeton and Michigan wish to "encourage the study and research of this material among current and future students, teachers, scholars, and the wider public."
The website is a work in progress, so check back often for additions and updates.