For years, the American Association of Museums has expressed a vigorous opposition to biased exhibits that fail to inform the public in a neutral, transparent manner as to the current state of scholarship in controversial fields of study.

While the San Diego Natural History Museum’s exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls has not yet opened, it appears that the Museum may be planning to violate the AAM standard by presenting a biased and distorted account of the present state of scholarship on this important topic.

Many important news accounts over the past decade have described a polarization of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars into two salient schools: one holding that the Scrolls were written by a sect living in the desert, the other holding that they are the remains of the libraries of the Jews of Jerusalem, gathered and hidden shortly before the destruction of that great city by the Romans.

Reflecting this polarization, the Cambridge History of Judaism features two articles on the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls: one defending the sectarian theory, the other defending the Jerusalem-libraries theory.

If, however, what we read is true, the Natural History Museum, in what would be a manifest departure from its mission to educate the public, has only invited proponents of the sectarian theory of Scroll origins to participate in its lecture series accompanying the upcoming exhibit.

This policy of exclusion gives cause to fear that the exhibit itself, like several others in the past, will exclude all of the evidence that has led an increasing number of scholars to reject the sectarian theory over the past decade.

Clearly, the Museum’s duty is to present both of the theories, along with the evidence that supports them, so that the public can be properly informed and judge for itself.

This entire issue is dealt with at length at 

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