Friday 1 April 2016

Sekhemka to go to US Museum After All?

The new owner, whoever he or she is, can take
possession of one of the world’s most important
antiquities and do with it what they will

The statue of Sekhemka is rumoured to have been bought by an American collector who has declared that he wants to put it on permanent public display in a privately-owned museum. As has been widely commented recently in the press, the buyer, Salt Lake City real estate broker Carl Smith IV has for the past four years been collecting manuscripts and artefacts relating to the Book of Mormon and devoted to the scholarship of Joseph Smith, a distant relative. The collection is believed to be the largest privately-owned assemblage of relics illustrating the Judeo-Christian history of the ancient American civilization described in the Mormon Scriptures. Highlights are believed to be the signet-ring of Nephti, early 1820s transcripts of the original text in 'reformed Egyptian', and, most astonishing of all, a few fragments of a manuscript believed to be the missing portion of the Book of Lehi.  There is also a rare copy of the first edition of the Book of Mormon published in Palmyra (the one in NY state, not Syria) in 1830 by local publisher E. B. Grandin.

As several articles in the New York Times have highlighted, the purpose of the new "Museum of the Divine Truth About America's Past" is primarily the mission of defending the Book of Mormon as a literal history, countering arguments critical of its historical authenticity, and using objects in the collection to illustrate how it is possible to reconcile historical and scientific evidence with the text. Billionaire Smith has recently begun to support important LDS-related initiatives such as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), and the Foundation for Apologetic Information and  Research (FAIR).

Mr Smith reveals that the purpose of his museum, due to open in New York (widely expected to take place at the end of this year) is to “bring to life the living word of God ... to inspire confidence in the absolute authority” of the words of the Mormon Scriptures. Smith is worried about the “danger of an America that gets too far from the God of Scripture", and he wants to remind Americans of the "Divine favours which have made our nation great and will make America great again".

Sekem is the name of one of the minor characters in the Book of Abraham, one of the lesser-known components of the LDS scriptures, and although the Egyptian statue is not believed to be the character mentioned in that Book, the inscription in unreformed Egyptian on the statue will be used as proof that this was a real name in the past.  As such the New York Times reports that in the project's design, the statue of Sekhemket will have a prominent place in the new museum, it will be sited at eye-level and lit with multicoloured strobe lighting to make it "seem more alive". Hidden speakers which will be mounted in the figure's chest will reportedly emit a recorded message by Mr Smith welcome visitors to the display of his collection.

Mr Smith released a statement today expressing his satisfaction that the British export restriction on the statue has been lifted and the sculpture will at last be coming to take its place in the new museum, "God has in this way made manifest His approval of our activities. I take this as a sign that the Lord has chosen me to help spread His word".

UPDATE 3rd April 2016:
For those who could not work it out for themselves, this, the only blog post I made on the 1st April (April Fool's Day) so as not to confuse it with the other content, was a spoof. It however is one which makes a perfectly valid point about the use of heritage. It seems some could not see it as such (see comments underneath and here).

Here's one for the sense of humour-deficient Sekhemket campaigners, David Gill: I expect they'll be calling him names next.


Farmor said...

Nice to know the DCMS is divinely inspired; does not give much hope for us ordinary mortals.

amunrakarnak said...

"Hidden speakers which will be mounted in the figure's chest" ?!?!

I can only hope this is a 1st of April Joke ?!

Farmor said...

I have already posted on my Google account so no doubt you will pick it up there.
However,thank you for fooling me so totally that I foolishly alerted the campaign group, the Egyptian Embassy, DCMS and academia! It was extremely tasteless and came in a week when I had already had a meeting with the Egyptian Ambassasor trying to work out how to delay the lifting of the ban as well as alerting the Action Group into renewed action.
Before getting outraged I should have gone into the Mormon website where one finds that yes, they do have a museum devoted to Mormon history next to the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City which does not contain any archaeological artefacts, it only goes back to the early 1800s and Joseph Smith's vision; there is the holy site of The Grove in Palmyra, New York State where Joseph Smith had his vision. There is a Temple in New York which was ra century xtended and r built but there are no 2016 plans for a museum.
The Mormon Church or a member could have been the buyer since there are many Mormon millionaires.
Thanks to your tasteless intervention and my foolish belief all mine and the Action Group's credibility has been removed in one fell swoop and it has undone nearly four years of full time work! Bravo!
Needless to say I will not be live anything you post or research in the future on your site.

Paul Barford said...

Wait a second, DID I ask you or anyone else to intervene in any matter?

I do not think it was in any way any more "tasteless" than the equally one-sided original intentions of the real museum this spoof post was based on - in Washington, and the use that archaeological artefacts bought precisely on the international market are being put to there. The Mormons cannot use artefacts because there are none. One could equally look at the Creationist Museum (I think there are at least two as I recall).

I also do not want anyone to uncritically "believe" or accept my view on anything that is written here. I am of the view that we should all be looking for ourselves critically at the claims put forward by collectors, dealers and artefact hunters. That is why I give the links to the source evidence - I want people to take a good look and decide for themselves what they think it represents. I repeat that message enough times I think to make it clear that this is my position (search this blog for the phrase "take a good look"). So if you DID NOT check out the sources of this information it really is not my fault. You will note no sources were cited - which given that as anyone can see from past posts, I always link to the source, should have been a red flag at once.

You might like to note that mine is not the only heritage blog (or indeed web resource) which regularly posts a spoof message on April Fool's day.

As for you "looking foolish", I am not sure that is the case, such is the total opacity of the market nobody outside the secretive auction house knows who this dealer is, nobody KNOWS it is an American, it's all speculation, rumour and guesswork. It is the same with the so-called Crosby Garrett Helmet. Now, I hold this is not how it should be, we need transparency and accountability in the market so we all know who or what it is we are discussing/handling. In the case of Sekemkhat (a cause I have consistently supported under my real name - not some anonymous avatar-name like "Farmor") I think it particularly tragic that an object in public ownership is not only disappearing into private ownership, but anonymous, secretive public ownership, and that new owner is thereby TOTALLY UNACCOUNTABLE to the rest of us about what he or she does with it. THAT is the real point behind my provocative text of April 1st.

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