Monday, 13 November 2017

The Bible Museum and its Problems

Steve Green’s collection, once headed for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is tainted by allegations of smuggling (Kelly Crow, ' Hobby Lobby Scion Spent Millions on Biblical Relics—Then Came a Reckoning', Wall Street Journal Nov. 13, 2017). Mr. Green and his family have amassed a $205 million collection of roughly 40,000 artifacts over the past eight years,
The collection was planned for inclusion in the 430,000 square-foot Museum of the Bible. That’s as big as the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Yet for the past three years, staff members at the museum have been sifting and rejecting potential donations from the Green collection that carried lingering questions of provenance, its director David Trobisch said. Most of the Greens’ antiquities remain with Hobby Lobby, the family owned arts-and-crafts chain. [...] Bible scholars Candida Moss at the University of Birmingham and Joel Baden of Yale have just published a book, “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby,” that said Mr. Green acquired objects with a “naiveté that begins to look willful.” Roberta Mazza, a papyrologist at the University of Manchester, has criticized Mr. Green’s collecting methods in lectures at scholarly conferences on art crime and biblical literature. She said she noticed an ancient Coptic fragment from the New Testament book of Galatians, displayed at an exhibit of the Green collection three years ago, which she believed she had earlier seen for sale on eBay . It offered no ownership history, she said. “I don’t care if a billionaire wants to open a museum so long as it’s ethical,” Ms. Mazza said.
When the museum opens, its permanent collection will consist of just 2,840 vetted objects, Mr. Trobisch said, a fraction of what the Greens own. The museum has had to distance itself from controversy over the collection.

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