May 21, 2019

Learning from the Museum of the Bible's Forgeries

“It is tempting to feel that some cosmic justice has been meted out to the Museum of the Bible, which recently admitted that five items in its collection that it believed were authentic Dead Sea Scrolls have been tested and are now considered to be forgeries. This came after the decision, in 2017, that the museum’s owners, the Green family of Hobby Lobby store fame (as well as religious fundamentalist fame, having successfully sued the U.S. government because it did not want taxes from its employee health plans to go to contraceptives), had purchased looted antiquities, and were forced to pay a fine and return some 5,500 illicit objects that had been bought by dealers in Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 2010.

Neither of these revelations come as a surprise to those who know how the collection of the Museum of the Bible was amassed. Most of the objects were bought en masse from other collections without knowing (or caring to look too closely) at how they were initially acquired (for a very detailed examination of this, see the impressive detective work of Roberta Mazza, which has been reported at the ARCA Conference on the Study of Art Crime and in numerous other publications, including Biblical Archaeology and my own feature in The Washington Post as well as another for Salon). The Green’s collection and how it was gathered have raised no shortage of eyebrows, and so a bit of schadenfreude can be expected. But kudos to the Museum of the Bible for not trying to cover up the latest scandal, but admitting it, with however much chagrin.

With this in mind, the reasonable question may rise as to how collections and individuals can avoid these sort of problems. We have already delved into how to avoid accidentally buying fakes and forgeries in this column, but what about not accidentally (or on purpose) buying looted antiquities? Here are five tips to take with you on your next trip to an art fair, gallery, auction or even a flea markets on some back streets.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The biggest topic in British political circles on Monday wasn’t the country’s impending departure from the European Union. It was milkshakes..."

"I often disagree with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., but I've been disturbed by the idea that he should be run out of the Republican Party just because he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses."

"The Icelandic band Hatari, whose members are quite vocal in their animosity towards Israel, held up Palestinian flags... Madonna, likewise, had two of her performers wear Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes."

"To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, I turn to movie critic Roger Ebert's old review of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Trust me on this one.)"

"The money is already here—and has been for years. In the midst of a housing crisis, an injection of cash into the superheated real-estate market seems likely to cause an uptick in evictions and displacement."

"Parents concerned about YouTube debate whether to let their children have their own channels; some forbid it, others send them to summer camp..."

"‘I Had Completely Lost the Knack for Staying Alive..." Warmer weather brings daffodils, rhubarb at the farmer’s market — and, for some, despair."

"With his new book, Howard Stern proves that his rightful place is among the prophets and moral visionaries, not the ‘shock jocks’"

"I’m terrified of parenting in the anti-vaxxer age: Anti-vaccine propaganda isn’t just harmful to children. It threatens to erode our entire sense of community."

"...doctors are starting to think more about specific nutrients that feed tumor cells. That is, how what we eat affects how cancers grow..."

"...it represents an impressive achievement: a victory of humankind against the chaos that pervades the universe."

"If trends continue, in 20 years the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. The United States will see a continuing decline in overall numbers, with a growing observant Jewish population..."