Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Green Collection and Classics: "Brace Yourselves"

THE ROGUE CLASSICISM BLOG: The Hobby Lobby Settlement: A Gathering Storm for Classicists? David Meadows has a meticulously documented post on the Classics-related manuscripts in the Green Collection, their importance for scholarship, the complicated background of their acquisition, and the growing difficulties with their associations. There is mention in passing of manuscripts of the New Testament and ancient Jewish works.

It's a very long post, so read (or skim) it at your leisure. For now, just two excerpts, one from near the beginning and one from the end.
But when reading about the travails of Dr Blumell, I couldn’t help but reflect on what we know about the amassing of the Green Collection from a Classics point of view. I also could not help adding to that reflection that 2017 has become the year when social media really came of age, what with a President’s tweets being actually newsworthy, and the whole news cycle becoming essentially a tool of ‘fake news’ or alternatively, confirmation bias. And so, in what follows, I hope to demonstrate how several years of antiquities acquisition by Scott Carroll merge with the spectacular announcements of a new Sappho papyrus a few years ago by Dirk Obbink, and suggest that the series of events presages potentially very difficult times for plenty of people in the Classics profession, including graduate students who were given amazing research opportunities through their (or their supervisors’) ties to the Green Scholars program.


Meanwhile, there are Classicists — undergraduates, graduates, and supervisors — dealing with these texts that clearly should have been published by now. But given the current climate created by the Hobby Lobby legal decision, it seems it is going to become even more difficult to publish anything associated with them, especially if there is no rock solid collection history for whatever is being published. And even if the collection history does appear solid (as with the Sappho papyrus … it’s about as solid as anything else coming out of Christie’s), the stories attached to the finds will inevitably be questioned (“private collector approaches noted scholar” sounds barely one step up from ‘Anonymous Swiss Collector’ no?). And how many of them might find themselves in the same position as Lincoln Blumell, being put on the defensive for being a scholar. As the meme says, “Brace Yourselves” …
Background on the Green Collection, the Museum of the Bible, and the recent Hobby Lobby settlement with the U.S. Justice Department is here and follow the many links. Past posts on the new Sappho fragments are here and here and links.

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