Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit to create opportunities

Jan. 14, 2013

Brandeis and Museum of Science collaborating on programming

Scrolls

Credit: Ken and Nyetta

Brandeis University and the Museum of Science in Boston are collaborating on programming around a major exhibition of Dead Sea scrolls and artifacts from ancient Israel.

The exhibition, created by the Israel Antiquities Authority, will include fragments from 20 of the Dead Sea scrolls and more than 500 artifacts. It is scheduled to open on May 19 and to continue until mid-October.

The exhibit is expected to offer a broad range of opportunities for Brandeis students to study, do research, and apply for volunteer opportunities and internships at the museum. Faculty with expertise in numerous disciplines are expected to participate in lectures at the museum, in the community and on campus, and in classes for interpreters and educators.

A preliminary information session about academic courses with connections to the exhibition and other potential on-campus connections to the exhibit is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 17, in Feldberg Lounge, Upper Sherman. A second session, about internships and interpreting opportunities at the museum, is being planned for late January or early February.

Fragments of hundreds of scrolls have been discovered since 1947, mostly in caves in the area of Qumran, near the northwest corner of the Dead Sea. About 230 of the scrolls are manuscripts of biblical texts. The scrolls are of tremendous historical significance, offering a sense of how the biblical text developed, of the transition from biblical to rabbinic Judaism, and of aspects of the Jewish background of early Christianity.

The scroll fragments will be shown 10 at a time and rotated midway through the exhibit.

In addition to the scrolls and smaller objects from the biblical period, highlights include a three-ton stone from Jerusalem’s Western Wall, limestone capitals from the first temple period (1000 – 586 BCE) and ossuaries from the early Roman period.

Not only faculty from Classical Studies and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies are involved, but also faculty from physics, history, chemistry, anthropology, fine arts, and education, among others.

Brandeis’ collaboration agreement with the Museum of Science was forged by Provost Steve A.N. Goldstein ’78 after initial connections were made by Board of Trustees Chairman Malcolm L. Sherman, who is a chairman emeritus of the museum’s board, and by President Fred Lawrence.

“When this first came up at the museum, I thought ‘This is perfect for Brandeis,’” Sherman said in an interview. “Fred agreed,” and after a meeting that Sherman arranged for Lawrence with the director of the museum “it became a fact.”

Goldstein said that “this opportunity to bring together fields of study in which we are pre-eminent with artifacts that have so much meaning to art, science and history, and to do it in cooperation with a stellar institution like the Museum of Science is very, very exciting. It is just the sort of collaboration in which we ought to engage.”

The Brandeis committee that is organizing collaborative activities and special events is being chaired by Professor of Near East and Judaic Studies Marc Brettler ’78, MA ’78, PhD ‘86.  Brettler said that the collaboration will “offer our students many new and exciting internships and informal education experiences, and will highlight the importance of studying antiquity as part of the liberal arts curriculum.”

The exhibition, which has been presented at Discovery Times Square in New York and at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, has been prepared by the Israel Antiquities Authority.