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The Packard Lab

When the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) began providing its generous support of Chersonesos in 2000, the National Preserve had gone almost a decade with little funding for research, conservation, or infrastructure. When PHI asked what might further our work, additional workspace came to mind. Dr. Carter proposed the construction of a building—the first new building at Chersonesos in more than a century—to provide up-to-date storage facilities with environmental monitoring capability, space and equipment for the specialized study of archaeological materials. The space would also include a computer lab to support innovative applications of digital technology to the archaeological record. Plans for the Packard Laboratory were approved by the Preserve and local officials in 2002, and ground was broken in 2003. Construction was preceded by the systematic excavation of the underlying remains, which included a section of the city wall and necropolis with a Late Classical Greek cremation burial and a Late Byzantine residential complex. The finds from the latter included a rare piece of bronze Early Byzantine ecclesiastical decoration. These earlier structures were incorporated into the design of the building itself and remain visible through windows beneath the Laboratory’s lowest floor.

Construction was completed in 2005. Dr. Carter and Preserve Director Leonid Marchenko decided to set aside an exhibit space on the ground floor of the Packard Laboratory and arrange a display of the most interesting Greek stelai that had been recovered from various locations in Chersonesos over a long period of time. The display would also feature the famous Oath of Chersonesos, an inscription that records the oath sworn by the citizens of the Greek city “to protect the democracy.” Chris Cleere and his conservation team, which included both trained local workers and students from the Historic Preservation program in UT’s School of Architecture, carried out this transfer of the large stone monuments over the winter and spring of 2006. At the same time they began to build the mounts for the stelai display on the ground floor.

On July 20, 2006, just after the city administration officially approved the building, ICA sponsored a long-awaited grand opening celebration. The celebration was attended by United States ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, former ambassador William Miller, the deputy mayor of Sevastopol, and a large and cheerful group of Preserve employees, ICA staff members, students, volunteers, foreign guests and well-wishers. Political circumstances in Kyiv prevented the attendance of representatives of the Ukrainian government, but Prime Minister Yury Yekhanurov sent a congratulatory telegram that commended the PHI’s generous donation and ICA’s deep commitment and long service to Chersonesos. Richard Posamentir’s handsome full-color guide to the stelai exhibit presented this extraordinary collection in English, Ukrainian, and Russian.

The Packard Lab now stands as a testament to PHI's generous support of Chersonesos, and as an indication of the importance of state-of-the-art collections-care facilities at Chersonesos. Members of the joint research project can now be found every summer studying material on the ground floor and working in the well-appointed computer lab on the mezzanine. On the two below-ground floors, a vast collection of objects are now stored on high-quality shelving in a stable environment. The ground floor also provides much-needed space for gatherings and workshops: during the Lab's inauguration, speeches and a book-presentation were made to an audience there, and in the summer of 2008, it housed both a stone-conservation training course and a digital-imaging workshop.