MUSEUMS AS EDUCATORS
Ancient Scrolls And Enchanting Elephants
Two new museum shows have little in common except excellence. The Dead Sea Scrolls Mysteries of the Ancient World (Jewish Museum, September 21—Jan. 4, 2009) is a collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority. The show describes the shift in Hebrew religious practice from animal sacrifice and temple offerings to the study of the scripture and prayer.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 is considered one of the most compelling archeological finds of the 20th century. Archeological digs continued through 1956 and scientific studies and textural analysis since then have reliably dated some 930 documents to between 250 B.C. and 68 A. D.
In the show are six Dead Sea Scrolls, with explanation of their connection to early Christianity. A fragment of the Book of Jeremiah (225-175 B.C.) is on public display for the first time. Here also are the book of Tobit, rejected by the Hebrews, but incorporated into the Christian Old Testament, the Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel that mentions the Son of God, and a War Scroll that describes a cataclysmic battle at the end of the world. Ancient artifacts such as a ceramic vessel and wrapper used to protect the scrolls and objects of every day use also are presented in the show.
A short film, dramatizing the discovery of the scrolls in caves in the Judean desert, east of Jerusalem and near the Dead Sea, stresses their historical relevance and enhances the viewers’ experience. The museum’s hopes its presentation will spark new scholarly dialogue about the scrolls and their intent.
Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors (The Morgan Library and Museum, September 19—January 4, 2009) features about 175 preliminary drawings and watercolors for the first book of each of Babar’s two authors: Jean de Brunhoff and later, his son, Laurent.
It offers amusing and delightful insight into picture books that enchant both adults’ children with an inviting story. Babar, an orphaned elephant, flees to Paris where he acquires French savoir-faire. Later he returns to establish Celesteville, importing his French lifestyle. Elephant natives crown him king, adopt Western attire begin to speak French.
Some critics have seen signs of Colonial paternalism in Babar. But, to parents, this snazzy elephant has offered amusement and subtle instruction on civility for nearly 80 years.
Babar began as a bedtime story in 1930 for Jean De Brunhoff’s sons, who asked their dad to draw pictures for it. An accomplished painter, he had never tackled kids’ literature, but decided to give it a try. Thus a homespun tale of the now beloved Babar took its first steps into the world.
Note about another creature: Igor, and animated family film about a hunchback who seeks recognition for being smart, is dark and disappointing. Save your money. Wait for the DVD. #