Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Glimpse into the Hobby Lobby Family’s Bible Museum

the Museum of the Bible offers
a particularly timely example of the house of mirrors
 refracting history, religion, and politics in the United States 

Reflections on a visit to a travelling exhibition of part of the recently-created Green Collection of Biblical manuscripts in Springfield, Missouri ('Passages: A Glimpse into the Hobby Lobby Family’s Bible Museum', by Rachel McBride Lindsey, Religion & Politics September 24, 2014).
The installation in Springfield, which will run through January of 2015, is a professionally curated exhibit of approximately 400 artifacts ranging from ancient papyrus fragments to medieval illuminated manuscripts to a full-scale, operating replica of Gutenberg’s press. As the eager khaki-clad docents remind patrons, despite the expansive breadth of the traveling exhibit [...] Passages comprises a mere one percent of the Green Collection. Internal calculations gush that the entire collection amounts to “more than 40,000 antiquities [and] includes some of the rarest and most valuable biblical and classical pieces … ever assembled under one roof.” All told, Green has spent more than $23 million amassing his collection, which he began in 2009.
There is not a lot of attention paid to the issue of where items came from, except this:
The collection joins a trend in antiquities collecting by affluent evangelical enterprises, such as the Scriptorium exhibit at the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Florida, and the Dunham Bible Museum at Houston Baptist University, each of which asserts their academic qualifications to audiences both sympathetic and critical. That such collections are founded on evidence, and not faith alone, is the unstated claim. Passages emphasizes that artifacts have been studiously acquired through the counsel of the Green Scholars Initiative, an arm of the Museum of the Bible that includes “Distinguished Language Scholars,” “Senior Scholars,” and “Senior and Distinguished Scholars and Consultants” from institutions including Pepperdine, Baylor, University of Chicago, Oxford, and King’s College, London (among a host of largely evangelical liberal arts schools conducting GSI Projects).
The reviewer sees an underlying theme to the exhibit, "a subtle message that is communicated in the collection’s arrangement of artifacts, historical data, and exhibit space":
the good news affirmed by insiders and extended to outsiders: we are on the right side of history. The Museum’s collecting habits, exhibit curation, and academic efforts combine technological savvy and strategic planning to advance a particular history of the Bible in American public life.

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