Biblical Archaeology Review 30:1, January/February 2004

First Person: Museums Abounding

But not for Biblical archaeology

By Hershel Shanks

“Despite an iffy economy and erratic museum attendance, the organizers of a National Music Center and Museum Foundation in downtown Washington are forging ahead with plans for a $220 million facility,” began an article in the Washington Post this past fall. $220 million—just for the facility. Wow!

That brought me back to one of my favorite subjects: Why isn’t there a major Biblical archaeology museum in the United States?

Well, you’ll say, music is different. Everyone likes music and is interested in it.

Yes, but then, from my old-fashioned files, I scrounged a yellowing copy of the New York Times from Independence Day, 2003, and found this blaring headline on the front page of the Weekend section: “Ethnic Museums Abounding.” The article tells us that New York alone has at least 25 such museums, “most springing up in the surge of ethnic self-consciousness of recent decades.”

“Comprehensive they are not…A full exploration of Ukranian culture requires an actual trip to Kiev,” the story continued. But even the small museums are planning for bigger things. “Next year, the Ukranian Museum will be moving into a sleek three-story home that will allow it to display the full range of its thousands of paintings, ceramics, festive attire and historical photographs.”

Which brings me back to the question: why not a Biblical archaeology museum?

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