Bible Museum, Admitting Mistakes, Tries to Convert Its Critics

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tags: museums, religion

For all its stated good intentions, when the Museum of the Bible in Washington was first envisioned a decade ago, skeptics worried it would favor religious proselytizing over neutral scholarship and buttoned-down collecting practices.

Part of that caution grew from the fact that the museum’s guiding spirit was 78-year-old David Green, an evangelical Christian who founded the multi-billion-dollar Hobby Lobby chain in 1972 and who had written of the Bible: “This isn’t just some book that someone made up. It’s God, it’s history, and we want to show that.”

So it was far from good news for the museum last month when it disclosed, just days apart, that thousands of its Middle Eastern antiquities had tainted provenances and that its vaunted collection of Dead Sea Scrolls was fake.

But in a dozen interviews in recent days, some of the institution’s toughest critics said the transparency with which the museum has handled the disclosures was a positive step toward converting those who had questioned its methods and principles.

“The museum did come clean here,” said Christopher A. Rollston, an associate professor of Near Eastern languages and civilizations at George Washington University who reviewed the findings about the scrolls. “But the museum will need to continue to engage in this sort of openness if they are to demonstrate that they are fair brokers of the public trust.”

The Museum of the Bible’s mission statement says its goal is to give visitors “an immersive and personalized experience with the Bible and its ongoing impact on the world around us.” To that end, David Green and his son, Steve, 56, have dedicated more than a decade and an estimated $50 million to amassing an eclectic assemblage of 50,000 artifacts related to the Old and New Testaments.

Read entire article at The New York Times

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