‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ Is Actually Happening Right Now at the University of Chicago

The U. of C.’s admissions department received a lovingly detailed replica of Abner Ravenwood’s diary, the fictional professor from the Indy movie. Where’d it come from? Probably somewhere from the surprisingly active community of Indiana Jones propmakers.

 

Someone is either pulling a wonderful prank on the University of Chicago, or there’s an applicant to the school who already really understands the institution’s sense of humor:

We don’t really even know how to start this post. Yesterday we received a package addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.”. We sort-of shrugged it off and put it in our bin of mail for student workers to sort and deliver to the right faculty member— we get the wrong mail a lot.

Little did we know what we were looking at. When our student mail worker snapped out of his finals-tired haze and realized who Dr. Jones was, we were sort of in luck: this package wasn’t meant for a random professor in the Stat department. It is addressed to “Indiana” Jones.

It’s a lovingly detailed replica of Abner Ravenwood’s journal from Raiders of the Lost Ark—he’s the real expert, he did the first serious work on Tanis, collected some of its relics; it was his obsession, really—the fictional University of Chicago professor allegedly based on archaeologist-historian James Henry Breasted (though there were a lot of people like Indiana Jones and Abner Ravenwood, back when men were men and superpowers were colonialist).

As befitting a research institution, the people in the admissions office have a plausible, or at least plausibly related source—this eBay listing, of a very similar package based on the work of “prop replicator” Wayne Miller, who appears to be a late employee of Abilene Christian University:

“You see a lot of Wayne in the Discovery Program,” Boisvert said. “He is a unique and complex guy. You would understand that the minute you walk into his office. You hear his Celtic music playing, see the perfect replicas of movie props (including Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Star Wars)….

And, it would seem, an active member of TheRPF.com, a forum for prop-replica makers.

However, the color of the journal’s off; the cover of the U. of C. journal looks more green, and the inside cover is different.

While I hate to spoil the magic of the Ravenwood diary, there are a lot of these floating around, all somewhat similar. Here’s one; here’s another; there’s a New Zealand clothier who makes remarkably accurate Indy props (and of greater interest to me, Cancer Man’s cigarettes and Mulder’s sunflower seed brand). The Ravenwood diary seems to be a more difficult project than the Grail diary: if you want to make one of the latter, there’s an amazingly encyclopedic site that allows you to download digital reconstructions of the pages and all the tickets and notes stuffed in it, screenshot by screenshot.

Point being: there’s an active community of Indiana Jones prop-replica makers who trade tips and tricks and sometimes sell their wares, enough that the prankster could have easily bought one and modified it further, though whoever did it in the first place obviously made it with loving care and obsessive attention.

 

Photograph: The University of Chicago

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