World famous Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition sent to U.S. for rare showing

Many of the world’s leading experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls will be participating in special public programs and events in conjunction with the presentation of the special temporary exhibition.The only scheduled exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the …

Many of the world’s leading experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls will be participating in special public programs and events in conjunction with the presentation of the special temporary exhibition.The only scheduled exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Israel Antiquities Authority will go on display this week at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Museum Center. The highly anticipated exhibit will run from February 16th through June 1.

First discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd, the Scrolls include some of the earliest surviving text of the books of the Old Testament – written more than 2,000 years ago.

“I have been the assistant public relations officer at the museum for five years and have never seen the degree of excitement and anticipation we (the staff) are experiencing now,” Peter Daly Daly told Israel21c. “Some days my phone just rings non-stop with calls from newspapers, television stations, radio stations, all wanting to do a story about Dead Sea Scrolls in Grand Rapids. I also get calls from individuals who just want to be sure they can get tickets to see the scrolls. We know we are going to draw visitors from throughout the Midwest. I know of a lady in Virginia who has already ordered tickets,” he said.



Daly added that the exhibit is providing a big challenge for the entire Museum staff regarding work being done to upgrade their security technology to protect the scrolls and artifacts, and to accomodate huge crowds.

“We expect to have 150,000 visitors to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, maybe 200,000 or more” Daly said adding that the Van Andel Museum Center is Michigan’s oldest historical museum turning 150 years old in 2004.

The entire collection of scrolls is made up of over 100,000 fragments pieced together into 900+ individual documents. The Israel Antiquities Authority is loaning 12 of these documents to the museum. They are the very scrolls that were excavated from the caves surrounding Qumran in the late 1940s and early 1950s

Over 250 caves were excavated in the official archaeological digs of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Of those 250, 11 caves yielded scrolls and
archaeological artifacts. The Israel Antiquities Authority agreed to loan certain scrolls that have been treated with the latest conservation technology. They do this in order to share the scrolls with the public and to raise money for further conservation work.


“We are working closely with the Israel Antiquities Authority. In fact, two curators from the IAA are here working with us now and will be here until the exhibit opens,” Daly said.

“I think that many of the people who come to the exhibit will be left thinking about Israel in a different light from the normal 6 o’clock national news. They’ll learn how much work has been done, by Israelis as well as people of many other countries, to preserve and translate the scrolls over the past 55 years. They’ll also learn how important the scrolls are to the religious heritage of both Christianity and Judaism,” said Daly.

Many of the world’s leading experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls will be participating in special public programs and events in conjunction with the presentation of the special temporary exhibition


Prof. Emanuel Tov, editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls official publication series, “Discoveries in the Judaean Desert”, will be at the Van Andel Museum Center on two occasions: for the opening of The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition on February 16 and again on April 1 to present a lecture entitled “Publishing the Scrolls: An Editor’s Viewpoint” in The Dead Sea Scrolls Tuesday Night Adult Education Series.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition will include fragments of 12 different scrolls, including fragments from the books of Exodus and Psalms. There are also numerous artifacts from Qumran, the ancient Judaean settlement located near the caves where the scrolls were discovered, including ancient coins, leather sandals, a scroll storage jar, and a pottery inkwell believed to be connected with the writing of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Plans for the exhibition call for a simulated cave, through which visitors will walk, catching a glimpse of the Dead Sea through a “window” in its wall. The main exhibition gallery will be organized into areas highlighting the story of the discovery and publication of the scrolls, the Qumran community, and the biblical text scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were written on parchment and papyrus in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek from between c. 250 bce to around c. 68 ce. Among these manuscripts are parts of every book of the Hebrew Bible except the book of Esther. They also contain sectarian documents such as community laws reflecting the lives and beliefs of the people of Qumran.

Editions of transcriptions and translations of the scrolls began to be produced in 1948, almost immediately after they were discovered. The first English-language translation of scrolls appeared in 1962. And there have been countless scores of editions of scrolls published since.