Review: Dead Sea Scrolls Come to Times Square... and the Ten Commandments too

Michael Kaminer in the Forward gave a reserved review to the Times Square Dead Sea Scroll exhibition a few weeks back.

We saw the show today.  It is a professionally packaged exhibit of ancient artifacts and manuscript fragments. Some aspects of the recorded explanations are clear and some are amateurish. In the "Audio Tour" the use of sound bites of professors explaining some of the stops seemed pompous and unnecessary, especially when long multiple academic titles prefaced rather banal observations about the exhibit items.

A significant proportion of the viewers at the show appeared to us to be ignorant of the basics of the culture and history of the ancient materials. Many terms used in the captions and in the audio guide did not explain terms adequately. The display rooms and the display cases were dimly lit. Many small objects were presented in display cases without any magnification available. The same could be said of the small texts, although magnified copies were shown alongside some of them.

Bottom line: Based on this exhibit, we judge that a newcomer to the scrolls could not put together a coherent narrative of the contents or the context of the objects.

That said, the show is an ambitious undertaking that needs to be applauded. We hope the producers will obtain constructive critical feedback so that the next such effort is a greater success.

A side issue: We did think this ad from our cable company went a bit too far in promising us "The Ten Commandments" at the show (at a 20% savings; when we went we got $2 off of a $25 ticket. American Express gave us a better deal; one headset free, worth $7).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I've seen on Salon.com that you are blessed with the “art of representing the truth in a way that doesn’t irritate the passions of the powerful.” Were you aware of this article, pp. 10-15?