Thursday, August 07, 2008

THE RALEIGH DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION is reviewed by Brian Howe in Excerpt:
Regardless of the controversy surrounding the exhibit, which we'll address shortly, the presentation is quite impressive. Impatient museumgoers may proceed directly to the dim, climate-controlled room that houses the scroll fragments, but spending an hour or so perusing the background exhibits preceding the scrolls is advisable. A preliminary video looping in a stylized cave, shot in the gauzy style of a Discovery Channel documentary, summarizes the discovery of the scrolls and some of the still-unanswered questions about them, the most troublesome being who actually wrote them and the nature of the settlement of Qumran. This summary video is developed with texts, maps, models, artifacts and a useful audio tour throughout the presentation. You'll learn about the major players in the discovery, interpretation and circulation of the scrolls, and about what daily life was like in this region of the Middle East more than 2,000 years ago.

This being a science museum, you'll also learn how the climate of the caves helped to preserve the scrolls (which began to decompose badly once they were removed from the caves and their linen wraps), and about modern techniques of preservation and reconstruction. You'll learn about the religious and political climate in which the scrolls were written, and you'll see an amazing array of ancient artifacts recovered from Qumran: coins, ossuaries, leather sandals, linen tunics, phylacteries (or tefillin, in Hebrew), combs, pottery and oil lamps. All of this provides a remarkably thorough and immersive context in which the viewer can perceive the scroll fragments with the proper depth and gravity.
Background here, here, and here.