TRAVEL HERE: THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS IN FORT WORTH TX
Today the blog is a little bit Travel, a little bit Faith and all about The Dead Sea Scrolls.
I want to start out by saying that the content of this exhibit is amazing and the staff on site is courteous to the point of graciousness. The reason I want to start there is because visiting the exhibit is time consuming and often frustrating – especially if you see it with someone who is mobility impaired. That should not keep you from going, but perhaps if you know a few of these things ahead of time, your experience will be a little more pleasant than mine.
Wednesday I blogged about the blessing I received by taking my mom to see the scrolls. Today it’s more about the frustrations. The adult general admission tickets are $25 during the week and $28 for weekends. There’s a group discount, a senior discount, a student discount and a child’s discount. Members of the military get in for free. I didn’t qualify for any of that. For me, the price seemed a little steep, especially if they want to reach out to non-Christians and interest them in the history of the Bible. With memberships to both the Arboretum and the DMA, I get to see most of what I want to for free – or at least reduced rates. After going to the exhibit I began to understand that most of this probably goes to staffing, because the seminary is not a museum – everybody there had to be brought in for the exhibit. Still I don’t want anyone to suffer sticker shock.
Southwestern Baptist Seminary is the host of the exhibition. Even though I grew up Baptist, I’d never been, so I had no idea where it was. I found out it was way out in the boonies. Don’t think the Stockyards, the cultural district or even downtown. Think Hulen Mall, which is only an exit or two west of the seminary on I-20. From my mom’s house, that’s over an hour of driving.
The tickets are timed. You’re given a thirty minute window for entry. You may need it. When I finally got to the campus, I had to find a place to park, but the parking lot is quite removed from the entrance, so then I had to figure out how to get my Mom to the front door. There is a covered drive where you can let people off, but there’s still the length of the building, a corner and then another stretch of building before you get to the door. Mom would have been worn out. I got as close to the front door as I could, parked illegally and helped my mom to the corner of the building. That was the best I could do. Then I had to park and make my way to the entrance and even though it was before 10:30 AM, it was hot. Made me wish I’d waited until later in the year to visit the exhibition.
I thought 10:30 on a Thursday morning would be a slow time for the exhibit. The campus did look fairly empty. A church delivered a couple of van loads about the time I was trying to get Mom unloaded, but they were small vans. When we entered the vast lobby of the J.W. MacGorman Performing Arts Center and Chapel, the number of people milling about seemed insignificant. However, getting to the exhibit’s entrance was not the end of our logistical nightmare.
After our long drive, our first destination was a restroom. There was no information desk or greeter, so I collared a security guard and asked for directions. We had to trek half the width of the lobby, down a ramp to the facilities, and then back up to the entry. I found the guard again and asked about a wheelchair, because Mother was wilting. They were able to provide one, but it seemed like they had to go over the river and through the woods to fetch it. Meanwhile, I discovered that even though I’d already purchased my tickets online, I had to stand in line with everyone else to actually gain admittance. Before you join a group to enter the exhibit, a security guard checks your handbag. I’m hoping that as the exhibit continues they figure out a way to streamline this whole process. I think the first step would be to allow access through the door closest to the parking lot which has the handicap ramp, but they didn’t ask for my advise.
The J.W. MacGorman Performing Arts Center and Chapel was not designed as an exhibition space. The Dead Sea Scrolls tour begins upstairs. Groups cluster around a guide in the lobby who introduces the exhibit and takes the group up. With the wheelchair, I had to wander back down by the bathrooms, take an elevator and miss whatever the introductory schpiel is.
The exhibition space upstairs is tight. Even with timed tickets too many people are trying to see the same thing in the same space. It felt very close and I knew if my claustrophobic husband had come with us he’d have been downstairs and out the building in about five minutes. Trying to maneuver the wheelchair also complicated things. There’s really not even enough space for people to be courteous. We had to hang at the edge of the group and see the display cases after the group had moved to the next case. However, that being said, it was well worth the effort.
At the beginning you stand among giant photos of the area where the scrolls were discovered. Then you enter rooms full of artifacts demonstrating slices of life in the time before the scrolls. The stage is set with Alexander the Great and then the Romans are introduced. The guides are well informed and really try to help you understand what you are viewing and what it has to do with the scrolls. They’ll show you some facsimile copies of the Isaiah scroll – the most intact found at Qumran, but don’t dismay the real articles are downstairs. Not the Isaiah scroll mind you, but plenty of scroll material from the caves.
Before long you go back downstairs – another tricky feat with the wheelchair. We had to have a guard escort us to the elevator and back out to the exhibit. We’d probably still be in the building if he hadn’t been with us, because you have to wander around in an area which was not designed for the public. The auditorium where they present the next phase of the experience was huge. Our group, which had been much too large upstairs, was dwarfed in the giant auditorium with it’s three large screens. The movie shown there really helps you understand how the scrolls were found and why they are significant.
However, you don’t exit the auditorium the way you came in. Everybody else had to climb up the stairs to the stage and exit through a side door. The stairs don’t have a railing. I saw a couple of folks crawl up or sit down and scoot up. Mom used a wheelchair lift. Then you wait in a faux Qumran cave. I thought it was a little touristy, but my mom liked it. Finally, we made it through to the holy of holies – the scrolls.
I shared a little bit with you Wednesday about being in the presence of the scrolls. It’s very easy to get distracted by all the inconveniences and forget why you came, but think about what you’re looking at in the scroll rooms and you’ll get over the distractions. After the scrolls, the exhibit features examples of the Bible from scrolls to the format you have on your bookshelf – even a modern day hand-copied and illustrated folio.
There’s more to the exhibit, a faux archaeology dig, but it was almost two by the time we left the exhibit. Between the exterior heat and our starvation, we were ready to go. We’d left Dallas at nine, making this a five hour endeavor – and we weren’t back home yet. As I mentioned, Hulen Mall is not far away and they have an Abuelo’s. I tossed out my diet and dove into some of their avocado enchiladas, but I stopped short of a margarita.
So see the scrolls, but wear comfortable shoes, schedule lots of time and bring plenty of patience. You’ll be glad you did.