Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Athens Acropolis Museum Opens

The long-awaited New Acropolis Museum in Athens opened this weekend after years of delay.  The Greeks say they didn’t “build it for the British,” but they intend it to be a strong argument for the return of the Elgin Marbles.  From the New York Times:

The museum, which cost $200 million and sits near the base of the Acropolis with a direct view of the Parthenon, is one of the highest-profile cultural projects undertaken in Europe in this decade.

Intended as “the ultimate showcase of classical civilization,” Mr. Samaras said, it was built to promote tourism and, like any large, government-financed museum, to stir national pride. But it was also meant, not incidentally, to spark discomfort in another country in the European Union.

“We didn’t build this for the sake of the British,” Mr. Samaras said in an interview, adding at once, “but look around: does this not negate the argument that Athens has no place good enough to house the Parthenon Marbles?”...

The new museum, 226,000 square feet of glass and concrete designed by the New York architect Bernard Tschumi, replaces the old Acropolis Museum, a small 1874 building tucked into the rock of the Acropolis next to the Parthenon. The design, introduced in 2001, was meant to be completed in time for the 2004 Olympics, but dozens of legal battles — many having to do with some 25 buildings that were demolished to make room for it — delayed the process for years.

Even now, not all Athenians are happy with the building, wedged in as it is among apartment buildings in a middle-class residential district. “It is as if a titanic U.F.O. landed in the neighborhood, obliterating all of its surrounding structures,” said Nikos Dimou, a prominent Greek author.

The museum has five floors (including two basement levels that will not be open at first), which provide space for 4,000 artifacts, 10 times the number displayed in the old building. On the first level a glass floor offers visitors close-up views of an early Christian settlement, dating from the 7th to 12th centuries, that was discovered under part of the future building’s footprint during excavations in 2002.

The Times article includes a slideshow with nine photos.

HT: Explorator

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Baghdad National Museum, Virtually

You can now visit the Baghdad National Museum online.  The Italian creators have done a terrific job.  Ansa.it has the story:

The treasures of Baghdad's National Museum went online for the first time Tuesday as Italy inaugurated the Virtual Museum of Iraq as part of an ongoing cultural collaboration between the two countries.

Looted during the United States-led invasion in 2003, the Baghdad Museum partially reopened in February after six years but the website is designed to make its most important artefacts accessible to everyone.

The site (www.virtualmuseumiraq.cnr.it), in Arabic, English and Italian, offers visitors the chance to walk through eight virtual halls and admire works from the prehistoric to the Islamic period, while videoclips reconstruct the history of the country's main cities.

''It's not a simple container of the objects in the museum but a real virtual journey, created for the general public and the scientific community, across 6,000 years of Mesopotamian history,'' said Italy's National Research Council Director Roberto De Mattei.

Among the artefacts on display in the Sumerian hall of the virtual museum is the famous Warka Mask, a marble head of a woman from Uruk dated to 3,400-3,100 BC, which, as with many of the works, visitors can rotate to get an almost 360 degree view.

In the Assyrian hall visitors can also admire colossal limestone statues of human-headed, winged bulls called lamassu, dated to the eight and ninth centuries BC, that guarded the ancient cities of Nimrud on the River Tigris and Dur Sharrukin, modern-day Khorsabad.

The story continues here.

HT: Explorator


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mosaic Museum Opens at Good Samaritan Inn

The Jerusalem Post reports on a new museum that has opened at the traditional Inn of the Good Samaritan.

The Museum of the Good Samaritan, which is located on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road near Ma'aleh Adumim, was officially opened Thursday evening after a nine-year archeological excavation at the site.

The official dedication of the NIS 10 million museum, which displays mosaics from the West Bank and Gaza, coincided with US President Barack Obama's long-touted Middle East speech in Cairo in which he reached out to the Muslim world....

The site, known as the Inn of the Good Samaritan, received its name in the Byzantine period when it was identified with the inn mentioned in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament.

The site lies on the upper end of the ascent on the main road from Jericho to Jerusalem, which pilgrims followed when traveling from the Galilee and Transjordan to the Holy City.

Over the last decade, archeologists have uncovered remains dating back to the Second Temple period at the site.

During the Byzantine period, the site was revived as a way station for Christian pilgrims, and an inn was constructed that included a large church, a cistern, residential quarters, and a fortress to protect pilgrims from brigands.

In the Crusader period, with the expansion of pilgrimage to Jericho and especially to baptismal sites on the Jordan River, the inn was renovated and a fortress erected above it to guard the road to Jerusalem.

The structure housing the museum was built in the Ottoman period as a guard post, which remained in use until recently.

The mosaics on display at the museum were discovered in the West Bank and Gaza and belong to Jewish and Samaritan synagogues - including a mosaic from a Gaza synagogue - as well as churches.

The full story is here.

Good Samaritan inn, tb113006626dxo Traditional Inn of the Good Samaritan with Jerusalem in the distance

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Israel Museum Renovation

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is in the midst of a $100 million renovation and the Jerusalem Post has an update on the transformation.  Here are some snips:

There are two main aspects to the renewal project. The first is to create a completely new approach from the entrance of the museum to the center of the museum campus. To do this, the museum has hired New York architect James Carpenter, who has worked on a variety of high-profile projects, such as the new Hearst headquarters (which involved saving the original facade of an existing building), the podium light wall of the Seven World Trade Center building in New York, a proposed multi-use sports enclosure for the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Madison Square Garden renovation....

This second main aspect of the campus renewal - the reconstruction of the original museum complex from within - has been taken up by Tel Aviv-based Zvi Efrat of Efrat-Kowalsky Architects. Efrat, who is also the head of the architecture department at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, has created a central circulation point from which all the museum's main exhibit wings - Archeology, Judaica and Jewish Ethnography, Fine Arts, and Temporary Exhibitions - are accessible on the same level.

To achieve this internal redesign without, in Snyder's words, "increasing the breadth of the existing envelope," the museum is being gutted from the inside, its exhibit halls are reconfigured, and a number of connecting passages are being added. The key to the project, though, is turning an area previously dedicated to internal museum service activity into exhibition spaces, resulting in an additional 9,290 sq.m. of gallery space that does not involve expanding the museum campus....

One of the final touches to the renewal project was a revamping of the museum's central outdoor plaza, raising two-thirds of it by a meter to improve its position as a vista point, and to split its length to make it more human-sized. The east side will lead to the underground passage that connects with the museum entrance, and the west side will open up on a wide staircase that feeds into the Isamu Noguchi-designed sculpture garden, making it more central to the campus.

The TimeOnline has a story about the new Egyptian gallery at the British Museum in London.  (HT: Explorator)

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Weekend Roundup

Daily Mail has a report and photos of the stunning model of Herod’s Temple Mount being constructed by Alec Garrard.  At 30 years and counting, Garrard has worked longer on his model than Herod did on the original (at the time of his death).

Sunday’s Zaman has a review of the “Top 10 Museums” in Turkey.  Most, but not all, of the museums are related to the ancient world.  HT: Explorator.

Dr. Platypus (Darrell Pursiful) has posted the Biblical Studies Carnival XXXIX.  As always, the carnival is a great way to see what is going on in the wider blogosphere.

John Walton posts on what the Bible means in its description of “the land flowing with milk and honey.”

Arabia meets America in the Wild Wadi Water Park.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Art and Scrolls in New York Museums

The press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority:

Two Exhibitions from the Vast Collections of the IAA in New York City Beginning September 21, 2008

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will exhibit the dazzling Gold - Glass Table from Caesarea.  The Gold Glass Table will be on display in the Byzantine Galleries of the Metropolitan Museum. Dating to the late 6th, early 7th century CE, this extraordinary, one of a kind panel was excavated in a Byzantine period mansion in the coastal city of Caesarea, when a large mosaic floor known as the Birds Mosaic, was exposed for conservation in 2005. The nearly intact panel is shaped like the letter sigma and made of small glass pieces using the opus sectile technique. The panel was discovered with its face down directly on the mosaic floor and was covered by ashes and debris from the ceiling and the second floor. It comprises a wide frame surrounding the central part, both made of a combination of delicate, translucent gold - glass pieces and opaque, colored mosaic glass pieces. The square gold - glass pieces were decorated with a stamped design of flower or cross. A workshop for wall opus sectile made of stone panels was recently excavated in Caesarea, and one can assume the Gold Glass Table was produced by local artists. The conservation, restoration and exhibition of the Gold Glass Table, was made possible by generous funding from the Margot and Tom Pritzker Foundation. Also at the Met, in the Ancient Near Eastern Art Galleries, are remarkable Chalcolithic period objects on long-term loan to the museum, including examples from the Nahal Mishmar treasure such as the Hippopotamus tusk with circular perforations, and the wonderful copper standard, as well as ivory figurines from Beer-Sheva.

Separately, at the Jewish Museum, a wonderful exhibition - The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of the Ancient World, will include six Dead Sea Scrolls from the collections of the Israel Antiquities Authority - the largest and most comprehensive collection of Dead Sea Scrolls in the world. The scrolls on display represent the important transformation that occurred in Jewish worship from sacrifice to Bible study and prayer, the debates among Jewish groups of the Second Temple Period, and the indirect connections between the scrolls and early Christianity. The scrolls on display include a part of one of the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Jeremiah, which dates to 225-175 BCE. Other texts include an apocryphal Jewish work, the Book of Tobit, which was rejected for the Hebrew canon but eventually accepted into the Christian Old Testament; an early example of a prayer from Words of the Luminaries; and Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel, which mentions a son of God. Also shown will be excerpts from two sectarian compositions.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is the pre-eminent organization in the field of Biblical and Israeli archaeology, custodian of more than 1.5 million objects among them 15,000 Dead Sea Scrolls, and 30,000 archaeological sites. These exhibitions are part of our continued effort to share the archaeological treasures of the Land of Israel with audiences around the world.

For downloading images please click here [ http://www.antiquities.org.il/images/press/iaa.zip ]
1. The Gold Glass Table - Photo by Niki Davidov, Israel Antiquities Authority
2. A Fragment of a 2,000 Year Old Psalm Scroll- Photo by Tsila Sgiv, Israel Antiquities Authority

HT: Joe Lauer

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Woodland Museum of Biblical Archaeology to Open

From the Daily Democrat:

Soon, Yolo County residents won't have to travel to Israel for a tour of the Holy Land. Locals will be able to stop by the Woodland Museum of Biblical Archaeology at Woodland United Fellowship, 240 N. West St., to visit a collection of artifacts from Biblical times.

The museum's humble beginnings began in the foyer of Woodland United Fellowship a year ago.

Pastor Carl Morgan began a display case with a few juglets and lamps from archaeological digs he participated in, and the collection continued to grow.

"We live in a time when the Bible has come under a lot of criticism and attack as not being reliable or authoritative," Morgan said. "Archaeology allows us to see the geography and historicity of the Bible is correct. Many times, we've been able to find a name or a city (on a dig) associated with a Biblical event, and we're able to say to the critics, 'They're not myths. The Bible is accurate.' It also helps build your faith."

On the west wall of the museum artifacts from mainly the Middle Bronze Age (2200 BC to 1550 BC) will be displayed. Visitors will find sling stones, which were used as weapons and swung with a leather strap. They will also see swords from 2000 BC and a sacrificial knife from the time of Abraham.

There is pottery dated beyond 3000 BC and a battle-axe on display that dates at least 500 years before the time of Abraham.

"That's the oldest piece of metal you'll ever hold," Morgan said.

The story continues here.  If they'll let you hold it, they'll probably let you take a picture of it as well.  Which is something you won't get at many other museums.  Woodland is 20 miles northwest of Sacramento.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Museum in Gaza to Open

The International Herald Tribune has the story:

It may sound like the escapist indulgence of a well-fed man fleeing the misery around him. But when Jawdat Khoudary opens the first ever museum of archaeology in Gaza this month, it will be an act of Palestinian patriotism, showing how this increasingly poor and isolated coastal strip ruled by the Islamists of Hamas was once a thriving multicultural crossroad.

Now only if there was a way for non-Palestinians to get there.  If he's depending on revenue from Palestinians interested in history, he is going to be a poor man.

The exhibit is housed in a stunning hall made up partly of the saved stones of old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers.

And while the display might be pretty standard stuff almost anywhere else - arrowheads, Roman anchors, Bronze Age vases and Byzantine columns - life is currently so gray in Gaza that the museum, with its glimpses of a rich outward-looking history, seems somehow dazzling.

"The idea is to show our deep roots from many cultures in Gaza," Khoudary said as he sat in the lush, antiquities-filled garden of his Gaza City home a few miles from the museum. "It's important that people realize we had a good civilization in the past. Israel has legitimacy from its history. We do too."

Someone's going to have to explain this one to me.  I'm not sure how Roman or Byzantine antiquities have anything to do with the legitimacy of Palestinian Arabs. 

It's a good article with a nice photo.  I recommend reading the whole thing, and I hope the venture is successful.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

National Bible Museum to be built

This item came out a few weeks ago, but seems interesting enough to mention for those who might not have seen it elsewhere.

A Cornerstone [Grand Rapids, Michigan] history professor is working to create a first-of-its-kind Bible museum in Dallas, Texas, to house thousands of artifacts relating to the Bible and provide education.

Scott Carroll, professor of history, has been working with donors and others in academia to create the National Bible Museum to house the largest collection of artifacts about the Bible.

The goal of this museum is to become “the Smithsonian of biblical antiquities,” he said. "To get the same experience now someone would have to travel across the world.” 

For the past five years, Carroll, and historian, Jonathan Shipman, have been conceptualizing and raising money for the project.

The museum will be funded by one family “who wants the museum to be part of their legacy,” said Carroll.

Several major donors are now interested.

“We are in the final stages of acquiring a 900,000-square-foot facility that sits on 22 acres in downtown Dallas,” said Carroll.

The building will cost $300 million and is being paid for by a family that Carroll is working with, whose name he declined to disclose.

The museum will be comprised of 20 halls, each half the size of a football field that will contain artifacts and illustrations of the preservation of the Bible during a different period of history. 

One donor has offered to build exact replicas of as many ancient monuments as the museum wants, Carroll said.

The facility will be completed in about three years and will employ more than 200 staff and 15 faculty members with doctoral degrees.

Carroll said he wants the museum to be a place where the media can go to get an authoritative Christian answer if there are questions concerning the Bible or a new discovery.

Educational programs are being planned by the museum staff for public schools, universities and seminaries.

Carroll will serve as chief executive officer of the museum with duties to include “making sure the museum stays true to its vision, overseeing development of the collection, continuing research and speaking and resuming an excavation in Egypt.”


Monday, May 19, 2008

Tel Dan Inscription at Israel Museum

If you're in Israel this summer, you may be disappointed that the Archaeology wing of the Israel Museum is closed for renovation (until 2010 or so).  But some students of mine yesterday were going through other sections of the museum and found the Tel Dan Inscription displayed in the Youth wing.  The anthropoid sarcophagi are also on display.

The Isaiah Scroll is on display now until the end of August.  While two shorter sections of the scroll have been rotated on the permanent display over the years, the two longest sections have not been displayed since 1967.  Visitors can now see Isaiah 1-28 and 44-66.

Update (5/21): The above has been corrected to reflect that the inscription is in the Youth wing.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

New Temple Replica Coming to Jerusalem

Ynet is reporting that Aish HaTorah is currently building a large museum opposite the Western Wall which will feature "an elaborated massive replica of the Temple."  The rest of the brief article discusses the museum and no other details are given about the model.

The three-storey museum, whose construction is valued at nearly $20 million will be erected in the Aish HaTorah ("Fire of the Torah") Yeshiva complex. The museum will feature a journey through Jewish history, from the days of Abraham to the present, emphasizing the message and significance of the Jewish people’s presence in the Land of Israel and their degree of accomplishment in world improvement....

In addition to the great lavish interior, the museum’s crowning glory is no doubt the massive amphitheater, whose cost is being sponsored by veteran Hollywood star Kirk Douglas, and his no less famous son, Michael.

The amphitheater will feature a three-dimensional film depicting the history of the Jewish nation over a huge glass screen through which one can see the Western Wall. The museum will also include a learning center with a VIP wing to host movie stars, politicians and other celebrities from Israel and abroad.

The brief article is here.

Western Wall plaza excavation, tb091306080
The Aish HaTorah building is on the left, marked with an arrow.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Lesser Known Museums in Israel

The Jerusalem Post has a short article on the work of the Council of Restoration and Preservation of Historic Sites in Israel.  Most of those singled out are kibbutz museums, which are usually ignored by tourists.  If you live in Israel, or plan to be back for the third - or thirtieth - time, you might find a few sites to add to your list.

For a small country, Israel has an amazing number of historic sites and museums. But then, the entire country is a museum and open history book in itself. There hardly seems to be a place, certainly in the central and northern parts of the country, where there isn't a sign at the roadside pointing to some historical site from any time period ranging from the Biblical to recent history....

Some years ago, an overseas visitor commented after a trip through the Galilee that northern Israel seemed to him to be one huge park and picnic ground!...

Founded over 20 years ago, the council maintains a long list's worth of sites and monuments and, working industriously alongside other organizations and special interest groups, has successfully restored important sites throughout the country dedicated to protecting Israel's rich heritage....

Under the motto "Our future, inspired by our past," the council identifies, restores, conserves and protects major heritage buildings and sites associated with Israel's rebirth, beginning in 1860, the time the first settlement outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City was established.

The rest is here.

Dor museum, former glass factory, tb090506861
Kibbutz Nahsholim Museum: Marine Archaeology and Tel Dor Excavations

Sea of Galilee Fishing Museum sign, tb101105910
"House of Anchors" Fishing Museum at Kibbutz En Gev