ROM to host Dead Sea Scrolls

  • September 26, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - The Royal Ontario Museum has reached out to Israel and back to the beginnings of Christianity and Judaism as we know it to bring the Dead Sea Scrolls to Toronto.

Some of the most significant pieces of the 2,000-year-old writings will be on display at the ROM from June 27, 2009, to Jan. 3, 2010. Scrolls on display will include passages of Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah, the War Scroll, the Community Rule and the Messianic Apocalypse.
“The scrolls teach us about a nascent period,” said guest curator of the exhibition Risa Levitt Kohn. “They are nothing less than a key to understanding who we are today.”

Dating from between 258 BC and 68, the scrolls were composed at a time when the Judaism centred on temple worship was beginning to give way to rabbinic Judaism built around communal study of the Torah and the synagogue. At the same time Christianity emerged. The Dead Sea Scrolls are also significant for Muslim scholars who consider both the Old and New Testaments sacred and important writing in the history of monotheism.

The religious and cultural significance of the scrolls will play out against the background of Toronto’s religiously diverse population, said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty who announced the exhibition to media and invited guests at the ROM Sept. 24.

“We are blessed in Ontario. We speak every language and we practise every religion,” said McGuinty.

ROM CEO William Thorsell said the exhibition would be more than a display of ancient artifacts. A lecture series, outreach programs for schools, churches and synagogues, plus visiting scholars will all be part of the six-month program.

“We have an opportunity to have a really interesting conversation about the meaning, the significance of these documents today and how do we respond to them today,” he said.

The lecture series will include Emanuel Tov, editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project, archeologist Yuval Peleg and archeologist Dan Bahat of Bar Ilan University in Jerusalem and the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

It’s the biggest show the ROM has put on since its exhibition of Egyptian art from the British Museum in 2004, said Kelvin Browne, the ROM’s vice president of marketing, sales and communications.

Browne would not speculate about the numbers the Dead Sea Scrolls might attract, but stressed that outreach and lecture programs will make the show accessible to people across the province. 

The ROM assembled a community advisory panel for the project which reflects the interest of all three monotheisms. The three co-chairs of the panel are Tony Gagliano, CEO of St. Joseph’s Media, Mohammad Al Zaibak, co-founder of Canadian Development and Marketing Corporation, and Jonas Prince, chairman of Realstar Group .

The show is being staged in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority and represents the most extensive collection of material from the Dead Sea Scrolls ever put on display in Canada.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by Bedouin goat herders and archeologists between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near the Dead Sea. Many of the texts in the collection are the oldest known copies of books of the Hebrew Bible. There are also legal texts, community records and apocalyptic writing.

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