The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956. After an initial flurry of excitement, the scrolls went into a period of quiet withdrawal. When I entered the field in the 1960s, only a few of the scrolls had been published. Those were the ones that were preserved in the Israel Museum that, in 1965, built a home for them known as the Shrine of the Book. A small number of the many texts discovered in the early 1950s while the West Bank was under Jordanian administration had also subsequently appeared. I was fascinated by the study of the scrolls, a then little-known and under-appreciated group of documents.This long article is a good summary of the history of the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls up to their full public release in 1991. It also gives a good overview of the current scholarly understanding of them. My one criticism is that the mention of John Strugnell's infamous Haaretz interview in 1990 should have added that he suffered from bipolar disorder and that he gave the interview during a manic episode. I have commented at greater length here.
Since then, everything has changed. The full corpus of materials found at Qumran has been released. Anyone can consult the full set of volumes, with English translations, or get digital images online of all the scrolls. If you want to see the scrolls in person without traveling to Israel, look out for an exhibit coming soon to your neighborhood. The enormous number of visitors to these exhibits throughout the world and the tremendous public interest testify to the way in which the Dead Sea Scrolls have become part of our public culture.
Some other PaleoJudaica posts possibly relevant to the article are collected here. A couple of other recent articles on the Dead Sea Scrolls at 70 were noted here and here.
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