About the Expeditions

In 1956, George H. Forsyth, then professor of art history at the University of Michigan, embarked on his first trip to the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai. The monastery, founded by Justinian and Theodora in the sixth century (548-565), holds a prominent place in Christianity and Orthodox spirituality, as well as among scholars of medieval and Byzantine art, history, and culture.

Upon his return from this initial exploratory trip, Professor Forsyth invited his colleague, Professor Kurt Weitzmann from Princeton University, to join him on future expeditions to this remote monastery. Between 1958 and 1965, Forsyth, Weitzmann, and their team of experts embarked on four research expeditions to Sinai. The Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions, as they came to be known, enabled the researchers to study firsthand the church and its monastic complex, as well as digitally document its vast collections of icons, manuscripts, metalwork, and embroideries. Photography of the expedition was under the direction of Fred Anderegg, head of photographic services at the University of Michigan.

This rich body of material stretches from Late Antiquity until the modern era, and encompasses the history of the icon. The collection is unique in that it documents, in color and black and white, the condition of these icons and objects after the cleaning and restoration carried out in the 1950s and 1960s.

The field notes and photographic material gathered during these expeditions are preserved in “Sinai Archives” at the University of Michigan and Princeton University. Princeton’s archive centers on a smaller portion of the collection, primarily the colored icon photographs, manuscript pages, and the mosaics, which were of most interest to Weitzmann during his scholarly career. Michigan’s collection, in turn, consists of correspondences, drawings, research notes, as well as images created in black and white, 35 mm color, and Ektachrome film of the site and its large multi-media holdings.

The images below are courtesy of the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions to Mount Sinai.