“In the early days of collecting,” said Mr. Kloha, who hired Ms. Loll’s team, “there really were not qualified individuals involved, and in some ways we knew these results were coming two-and-a-half years ago, because the documentation was, well, I’ll just say it was meager.”
Experts who often disagree on the rules, ethics and impact of antiquities collecting were united in their irritation and dismay over the museum’s lax practices, but also saw an opportunity for the Green family to take the lead in setting a higher bar for acquisition standards.
“Mr. Green is doing the right thing by repatriating these thousands of artifacts, but this gesture must be the start of the story, not the end,” said Tess Davis, executive director of the Antiquities Coalition, which argues for strict regulation of the trade. “The global black market for Middle Eastern antiquities is increasingly driven by biblical scholars, seminaries and the faithful seeking to own a piece of the Holy Land. Given Mr. Green’s platform and other resources, he is in an unparalleled position to stop this demand.”
Kate Fitz Gibbon of the Committee for Cultural Property, which represents the interests of dealers, collectors and museums engaged in the lawful sale and collection of archaeological objects, said Mr. Green “failed to do the due diligence that has become routine for American art dealers and collectors and bought in the Middle East instead.”
“While it’s currently an embarrassment to the museum,” she added, “the Museum of the Bible should be commended for researching the flaws in its collections and returning objects that should never have been bought in the first place.”
Mr. Kloha, the chief curator, said he hoped the recent experiences would help the museum build confidence in its efforts. He plans to create an exhibit showcasing how Ms. Loll and her team used hard science to debunk the scroll fragments.
“All we can do is operate in the most responsible and ethical way going forward,” he said, “and help the public understand how these things can happen.”