Home > Special Collections > Religion > Archaeology of Palestine

H.G. May Archaeology of Palestine Collection

Font size: AAA

Herbert G. May
Courtesy of Oberlin
College Archives
Herbert Gordon May (1904-1977) was an internationally recognized linguist, cartographer, Biblical translator, and theologian. A graduate of Wesleyan University (1927), he received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (1934), B.D. from Chicago Theological Seminary (1930), and D.D. from Wesleyan (1952). Between 1934 and 1966, he was a professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology. After the School of Theology moved to Vanderbilt University, he held a joint professorship at both Vanderbilt and Oberlin from 1966 until his retirement in 1970. Following his retirement, he taught at Yale Divinity School and Oberlin.

Dr. May is probably best known today for having been a member of the Revised Standard Version Bible Committee (originally the Standard Bible Committee), Division of Education and Ministry of the National Council of Churches of Christ of the U.S.A. He was chairman of the Committee from 1966-1974, and head of its Old Testament Section from 1960 until his death. He was also co-editor of the Oxford Bible Atlas and the Oxford Annotated Bible and Apocrypha, as well as one of four associate editors of the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. A prolific writer, he was author of Our English Bible in the Making, Ezekiel: Introduction and Exegesis, and Material Remains of the Megiddo Cult. Following his death in 1977, a number of books were released in his honor, including Translating and Understanding the Old Testament: Essays in Honor of Herbert G May.

Scope and Content

Dr. May had a profound interest in the use of visual aids in teaching. His contributions to the School of Divinity's lantern slide collection include images from companies, books, and his own private images taken during his work on archaeological sites and personal trips to Palestine and the Middle East during the 1930s-1960s. Also included are photographs taken by Mrs. Helen May, Olaf Lind (an employee of American Colony Photographers), other Oberlin College professors (most notably Kemper Fullerton), and Mrs. Lydia Einsler of Jerusalem (friend of Herbert May).

The slides, now located in Oberlin College Special Collections, number nearly 3,000, and most have been digitized. Slides that have not been digitized include previously published images and halftone prints of maps, artworks, inscriptions, images relating to Khorsobad, Hittites, and Persia, and other images unrelated to the subject of the archaeology of Palestine.

Also added was a selection of images reproduced from negatives taken by Mrs. Helen May during their trips to Palestine in the 1930s. These images are now part of the Herbert G. May Papers RG 30/46 in the Oberlin College Archives. For additional information regarding Dr. May's life and work or Mrs. May's negatives, please contact the Oberlin College Archives.

Sources Consulted: Entry taken from William E. Bigglestone's unpublished "[preliminary] Guide to the Oberlin College Archives" which was prepared as individual entry sheets in a three-ring binder during the early 1980s. It was edited by Katherine Lansky in 2005 based on materials in the H. G. May Archaeology of Palestine Collection.

The Collection
  • Bethany, Bethlehem: Nearly half of these 81 images depicting landscapes, architecture, and people were purchased from the American Colony Photographers VESTER & Co., Jerusalem, Palestine.
  • Central Highlands: A majority of these 208 images were purchased from the American Colony Photographers and Keystone Company or were reproduced from unidentified previously published printed works.
  • Coast, Phoenicia, Galilee: These 97 images include views of locations in Galilee and the coastal region including Acco, Ashdod-Ashkelon, Damascus, Gaza, Jaffa, and others.
  • Dolmens, Jerash, Ghassuls, the Negeb, Arabah, Tainat, Ugarit: Many of these 89 images illustrate landscapes, architecture, and artifacts from these areas.
  • Egypt: Most of these 74 images depicting Egyptian artifacts and architecture were reproduced from previously published printed works.
  • Flora, Personalities, Customs: These 194 images include vegetation of the region and native people and customs of some ethnographic interest.
  • Inscriptions: These slides were not digitized because most of the images were reproduced from previously published printed works and not original photography.
  • Jerusalem: These 480 images represent the largest group. Images include architecture, people, aerial views of the city, and landscapes.
  • Khorsobad, Hittites, Persia: These slides were not digitized because most of the images were reproduced from previously published printed works and not original photography.
  • Maps: These slides were not digitized because most of the images were reproduced from previously published printed works and not original photography.
  • Maps, Arts & Crafts, Dragons, Tree Designs: These slides were not digitized because most of the images were reproduced from previously published printed works and not original photography.
  • Mesopotamia, Babylon, Ur, Hari, Reliefs: These 54 images include many photographs of artifacts reproduced from previously published printed works.
  • Old Testament Manuscripts & Historical Bibles: While at Oberlin, Dr. May taught a wide variety of courses ranging in topic from in-depth examinations of individual books of the Bible to the religious practices of Ancient Israel and Biblical archaeology. These 72 images depict Old Testament manuscripts and historical Bibles that appear to have been reproduced from unidentified previously published printed works.
  • Petra: These 72 images include maps, architecture, and topography.
  • Sea of Galilee: These 253 images include many beautiful hand-tinted slides.
  • Synagogue, Wadi Mughara, Megiddo: During the 1930s, as a graduate fellow, May was part of the University of Chicago archaeological expedition to Megiddo in Palestine. He worked as epigrapher and recorder between 1931 and 1934. A majority of these 92 images depict locations near Mt. Gilboa, Wadi Mughara, and Mount Carmel.
  • Taanach: These 11 images include landscapes and photographs of artifacts. The images that were not reproduced from previously published printed works were probably taken by Dr. May during his time in the 1930s as epigrapher and recorder.
  • Temple-Synagogue: These 71 images include models, exteriors, and interiors of synagogues and temples.
  • Ugarit: Many of these 122 illustrations and photographs of artifacts appear to have been reproduced from previously published printed works.
  • Unidentified & Miscellaneous: These 11 images include unidentified locations and structures. Several slides in this category were not digitized because they did not fit the scope of the collection.
  • Wilderness of Judah, Jericho, Jordan, Dead Sea: Many of these 188 images depicting landscapes, architecture, people, and artifacts were purchased from American Colony Photographers or reproduced from previously published printed works.
  • Writing, Writing Materials: Many of these 76 images of ancient writing and writing materials were reproduced from unidentified previously published printed works.
  • Negatives: These 297 images were taken by Mrs. Helen May during trips to Palestine in the 1930s and are part of the Herbert G. May Papers RG 30/46, Series XI Photographs in the Oberlin College Archives.
If you have information regarding the subject matter of these slides, please contact Oberlin College Special Collections. Credits: Jeffrey A. Blakely, Katherine (Kate) Lansky, Marsha Bansberg, Cecilia Robinson, and Ed Vermue, 2010. Go to Oberlin College Library Digital Collections
Last updated:
June 19, 2013