Day at the Museum
I had been excited to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Science since I saw a billboard that featured a wonderful lidded pottery jar. I’ll look at pottery anywhere, anytime, and if the pottery is accompanied by artifacts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, so much the better.
I had only been to the Museum of Science once; generally, I prefer art museums, but I was interested to see if this exhibit would change my mind about other types of museums.
After buying our tickets, my friend Bev and I wandered through some of the permanent exhibits – Seeing is Deceiving and Mapping the World Around Us, to name a few. They were quite interesting, but I was disappointed that so many parts of the exhibits did not work. It seems that a refresh is in order.
Before seeing the exhibit that had drawn us to the Museum, we saw the IMAX film “Jerusalem”. It proved to be a great decision to see the film first (which we did based on timing). Neither of us has ever been to Jerusalem, so learning about the city helped us in the exhibit. It’s hard to believe, but I never knew what the fourth ‘quarter’ of the city was. I knew that there are the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem Quarters, but had no idea that the fourth quarter is the Armenian Quarter. Now able to visualize the city and its surrounding areas, we headed into the exhibit.
We were given a brief explanation of the exhibit before entering the exhibition galleries.
In the first gallery, we were confronted with a line to see the artifacts that are displayed behind glass on one wall of a large room. This was a problem – we stood without moving for about fifteen minutes before going to the end of the room and looking at the artifacts out of order. We could barely get near enough to read the descriptions of the objects.
The next gallery contained many large pots and I was in heaven. It never ceases to amaze me what ancient civilizations were able to do without the technology we have today. Did the civilizations in the area have wheels? As I discovered since seeing the exhibit, there were wheels in that area as early as 3000 BCE. How did they fire the pots? Were they using earthenware or stoneware? How did they know when pots were fully fired without the use of modern cones and pyrometers? Most of the pieces are about three feet tall, many with pointed bottoms. These pots looked similar to some of the wood-fired pots being made today.
There was an extremely informational video about the discovery and preservation of the Scrolls. Found in a cave by a Bedouin goat herder in 1947 (think about the timing – the creation of the state of Israel occurred the following year after the United Nations passed its resolution in late 1947), the Scrolls were in surprisingly good condition due to the lack of exposure to the elements. The exhibit contained pieces of the Scrolls along with explanations of what the Aramaic or Hebrew letters say. These were displayed in a circle and one had to look down to see it. This was another bottleneck. The lighting on the Scrolls seemed to be non-existent.
I particularly enjoyed the way some objects were displayed in niches cut between parts of the exhibit that were recessed into the walls. I felt as if I were looking into a home or house of worship.
As you can probably discern, I have a love-hate relationship with the exhibit. The layout was terrible and that nearly spoiled my enjoyment. I looked past that as best I could and truly enjoyed what I was able to see. If it was going to be at the Museum for another month, I would consider going again early in the day when it would be likely to be empty. I would highly recommend the IMAX film ‘Jerusalem’.