George and Ilene Forsyth Papers

Bentley Historical Library banner

George and Ilene Forsyth papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger George and Ilene Forsyth papers record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

The George and Ilene Forsyth papers (1912-2015) document the career of George H. Forsyth, an archeologist, architect, and art historian who led archeological expeditions to Angers, France, Mount Sinai, Egypt, and countries in the Near East including Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Forsyth was a professor at the University of Michigan, chairman of the History of Art Department and director of the Kelsey Museum. Ilene H. Forsyth, who continued George’s publishing activities posthumously, was an art historian and professor at the University of Michigan. The collection is comprised of personal materials, teaching materials, and extensive documentation of George's personal travel and archeological expeditions to Europe and the Near East such as correspondence, field notes, and visual materials.

George Howard Forsyth was born September 2, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois to Sarah Brockunier and George H. Forsyth. He attended the Chicago Latin School, Lawrenceville School, and Princeton University graduating in 1923 with Bachelor of Arts and 1927 with a Master of Fine Arts. In the 1920s, Forsyth traveled widely in Europe, Greece, and Near East corresponding with friend and noted art historian, Albert M. Friend. He documented his experience in personal writings, sketches, and photography. Forsyth returned to Princeton to finish his graduate degree and teach in the Department of Art and Archeology from 1927 to 1942. During his tenure at Princeton, Forsyth conducted a number of archeological expeditions to the Church of St. Martin in Angers, France, between 1926 and 1936, resulting in a published study in 1953.

Forsyth served three years in the United States Navy, 1942-1945, as a lieutenant during World War II. Following his service, Forsyth accepted a visiting professorship at the University of Michigan and became chair of the Art History Department in 1947, a position he held until 1961. Also during his time at UM, Forsyth served as director of the Kelsey Museum, 1961-1969, and professor if archeology, 1969-1972.

In 1954 and 1956, Forsyth led exploratory expeditions in search of a location to conduct a long-term archeological project. After exploring numerous churches, mosques, and other sites from antiquity in countries including Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, Forsyth and his team settled on Saint Catherine's Monastery, in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, built in the sixth century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The succeeding expeditions were led by George Forsyth in conjunction with Kurt Weitzmann of Princeton University in four campaigns: 1958, 1960, 1963, and 1965. Many scholars and experts were involved in the archeological field work and documentation of the monastery’s religious icons and art. Experts included Fred Anderegg, University of Michigan photographer, Aziz Suryal Atiya of the University of Utah, Ernest Hawkins of the Byzantine Institute, among many others. Several publications resulted from the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria expeditions, but at the time of his death, Forsyth had not published the landmark measured drawings he made based on precise field notes and detailed survey methods of the Monastery St. Catherine. Publication activities and a catalog of the drawings were compiled by Ilene Forsyth, George's wife, and Lois Drewer, of Princeton University, in multiple iterations in the 1990s.

Ilene Eleanor Haering was born August 21, 1928 in Centerline, Michigan. In 1950, Ilene received a degree in English literature from the University of Michigan and graduated from Columbia University with her Ph. D. in 1960. Dr. Forsyth joined the University of Michigan the following year as a lecturer and served on the faculty of the History of Art Department until her retirement in 1997. Dr. Forsyth held other appointments as a visiting professor at Harvard University (1980) and the University of California at Berkeley (1996). Ilene and George married in 1960 and lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan. George H. Forsyth died January 26, 1991.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

Recent Deposits RSS Feed

View more

Search Deep Blue

Advanced Search

Browse by

My Account


Coming Soon

MLibrary logo