Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible

Review

of an Exhibition

by Marcus Harshaw

Published on May 25, 2011, Modified on June 10, 2011

  • Description:

    My 2010 birthday Midwest museum (dork) tour took me from COSi in Columbus, Ohio to Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Public Museum to see the much anticipated Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures. This would be my second visit to Milwaukee in my life ever. The first was to the breathtaking Milwaukee Art Museum only four years ago. I was excited to visit an institution similar to the past two institutions of my employment, and with its own distinct differences as well. Milwaukee Public Museum is not only a museum dedicated to the rich socio-cultural history of the “Great Place on the Great Lake” but also the natural history and native inhabitant history of the area.

    Now, let’s come to a clear understanding early in our blog relationship. I don’t like getting my picture taken by the people that are waiting to take your picture right at the top of the escalator and charge you two times the amount on the dice as shown for a 5×7 or four wallets. I don’t like it at Kings Island, and I definitely think it is a little much for a museum. I have operated a photo opportunity during special projects and exhibits such as Lord of the Rings: The Exhibition, and The Indiana State Museum’s Celebration Crossing as well as Scales and Tails Festival. Never have I had to almost scare and confuse people into taking and purchasing a photo, but i digress…

    So after the gauntlet of photographers, and up another escalator, it was time to enter the exhibit. I’m serious, with timed tickets it actually was time. Upon entering the exhibit you walk through a corridor with panels that set up the area of the world that we are going to be exploring. You enter the exhibit hall itself that is appropriately outfitted with floor to ceiling stone walls, Jerusalem Temple arches, ambient noise, and palm trees to give the visitor the feeling that they had stepped right into old Jerusalem. Much like the best exhibits that there are, an immersive environment is key to making the visitor feel like they are apart of the story. The many cases around the hall held many different artifacts ranging from combs, to funeary objects – one even mentioning Simon of Cyrene – the man who helped Christ bear the cross. The surprise is that you expect to see, learn, and understand more about the scrolls, but instead the exhibit is full of archaeological, historical, and biblical information. The Western Wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was impressively recreated in the back of the main exhibit space. Transitioning visitors from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.

    About midway through the exhibit was a lengthly video that may have worked better near the exhibit entrance as an introductory video for the exhibition. Then a room with a facsimile of the coveted Isaiah Scroll. Although it was not the actual scroll, it gave the visitor the opportunity to understand the sheer length of the scroll itself.

    I have to admit, by this point, I was not all that impressed, but after going through another environmental experience, the visitor is in a dimly lit room, serving as a re-creation of the cave where the scrolls were found, with the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Over a dozen cases with the fragments lined the room with panels above them with the information about what each case’s fragments represent. There were fragments from many books of the bible. The Western Wall at the end of the exhibit is a place for visitors to leave comments or prayers in the cracks of the wall which was really a stunning visual.

    My Professional Opinion -

    This is a 16,000 square foot exhibit loaded with artifacts and an interesting bible collection near the end, and the sheer number of loaning institutions from around the globe that made this exhibit possible is cause for applause…a standing ovation even. Not often can so many individual loans be secured for one exhibit, and it speaks to the leadership and organization of the registration, collections, and curatorial team on staff in Milwaukee.

    There was a lot of academic information supplied on many large wall panels throughout the exhibit that slowed the traffic through the exhibition. There was a room at the very end with interactive activities for families to enjoy that may have worked near the areas in the exhibit that they were trying to interpret rather than removed from the exhibit space to make a connection from the interactive to the artifact.

    Overall, I would have to give this exhibit 4 out of 5 tickets. Although text heavy, the exhibit showcases great immersive environments and fantastic artifacts for this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit. If you live in or will be visiting Milwaukee soon take advantage of the exhibit. You have until June 6, 2010.

    For more information -

    http://www.mpm.edu/dead-sea-scrolls/

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