#EOTalks 7: Untold Stories at the Museum of the Bible. Artifacts, Provenance, and Bias in the Contact Zone by Morag Kersel

#EOTalks 7: Untold Stories at the Museum of the Bible. Artifacts, Provenance, and Bias in the Contact Zone by Morag Kersel

Cover picture by Morag Kersel

Join us on zoom on September 4th for the seventh of our 2020 #EOTalks series! This event will feature Morag Kersel, who will share her thoughts about how the Museum of the Bible can, and should, do better.

#EOTalks 7 by Morag Kersel

You can also watch the talk on Everyday Orientalism’s facebook page

by Morag Kersel


A museum’s aversion to addressing complex issues of geopolitics, provenance, ownership, and archaeological site destruction caused by looting results in distorted displays, misleading interpretations of the material record, and injustice in the contact zone (sensu Pratt, Clifford, and Boast). While in this moment of decolonization, the trope of the museum as contact zone may appear dated, it provides a useful lens with which to scrutinize elements of public display. The Museum of the Bible, the collecting practices of Steve Green/Hobby Lobby, a few lawsuits, and a personal experience with gatekeeping, provide the perfect opportunity to consider curatorial decision-making, untold stories, breaches of the public trust, and bias in the contact zone.


Dr Morag Kersel

Morag M. Kersel is Associate Professor of Anthropology at DePaul University, Director of the Museum Studies Minor, and affiliated faculty with the Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law in the College of Law at DePaul University. Her research interests include the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Periods of the eastern Mediterranean and Levant, cultural heritage protection, the public display of archaeological artifacts. Morag is a co-director of the Follow the Pots project, tracking the movement of Early Bronze Age pots from mortuary landscapes in Jordan to the global antiquities market. She is currently at work on a manuscript project Innocents Abroad? The Consumption of Artifacts from the Holy Land.


Sept. 4th 2020, 10am Toronto time = 7am San Francisco time = 3pm London time = 4pm Cairo time = 7pm Mumbai time = 10pm Singapore time = midnight on Sept. 5th Sydney time. The whole event shall last about 1hour (c.30 min talk followed by q&a).


We recommend webcaptioner.com (using Google Chrome as a browser) or the smartphone app LiveTranscribe for closed captioning during the event. Notes from the speaker can be provided before the event for those who need it to follow along. Please get in touch with us if you have any concerns about accessibility. The session will be recorded and made available in the future.

Suggested readings

Arraf, Jane. 2020. D.C. Museum of the Bible to Return Looted Artifacts to Iraq. NPR: All Things Considered, July 31, 2020.

Autry, L. T. S. (2017). Changing the Things I Cannot Accept: Museums Are Not Neutral. Artstuffmatters October 15, 2017

Baden, J. and C. Moss (2016). Can Hobby Lobby Buy the Bible? The Atlantic January/February 2016

Boast, Robin, 2011. Neocolonial Collaboration: Museum as Contact Zone Revisited. Museum Anthropology 34 (1): 56-70.

Brodie, Neil J. 2020. Restorative justice? Questions arising out of the Hobby Lobby return of cuneiform tablets to Iraq. Revista Memória em Rede 12(23): 87-109.

Brodie, N.J. and M.M. Kersel, 2012. The Social and Political Consequences of Devotion to Biblical Artifacts. In All The Kings Horses: Looting, Antiquities Trafficking and the Integrity of the Archaeological Record, edited byP.K. Lazrus and A.W. Barker, 109-125. Washington DC: Society for American Archaeology.

Clifford, James, 1997. Museum as Contact Zones. In Representing the Nation: A Reader. Histories, heritage and museums, edited by D. Boswell and J. Evans, 435-457. London: Routledge.

Clifford-Napoleone, Amber R. 2013. A New Tradition: A Reflection on Collaboration and Contact Zones. Journal of Museum Education 38(2): 187-192.

Clover, Darlene and Kathy Sanford. 2016. Contemporary museums as pedagogic contact zones: Potentials of critical cultural adult education. Studies in the Education of Adults 48(2): 127-141.

Gurian, E.H. 2019. The Importance of And. Keynote address at the MuseumNext Melbourne conference at ACMI on 22 December 2019.

Gerstenblith, Patty. In press. Hobby Lobby, the Museum of the Bible, and the Law: A Case Study of the Looting of Archaeological Artifacts from Iraq. In Antiquities Smuggling: In the Real and Virtual World, edited by Layla Hashemi and Louise Shelley. London: Routledge.

Hicks-Keeton, Jill and Cavan Concannon (editors). 2019. The Museum of the Bible. A Critical Introduction. Lanham MD: Lexington Books. 

Jilani, Sarah, 2018.How to Decolonize a Museum. Times Literary Supplement, June 7, 2018.

Kasmani, Shaheen. 2020. Film: How Can You Decolonise Museums? June 2, 2020.

Kutner, Melissa Bailey, 2018. Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible Steals; Does It Also Lie? Eidolon May 3, 2018.

Message, Kylie, 2015. Contentious Politics and Museums as Contact Zones. In Museum Theory / Disciplines and Politics (Part II). The International Handbooks of Museum Studies. Wiley Online.

Moss, Candida and Joel Baden, 2017. The Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Peers, Laura and Alison Brown, 2003. Introduction. In Museums and Source Communities, edited by L. Peers and A. Brown, 3-16. London: Routledge.

Porter, Sarah, 2018. Incompatible Sites: The Land of Israel and the Ambulant Body in the Museum of the Bible. Ancient Jew Review January 30, 2018.

Pratt, M.L., 1991. Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession 33-40.

Press, M., 2017. As the New Museum of the Bible Opens, Questions About its Scholarship RemainHyperallergic November 20, 2017.

Purkis, H., 2013. Making Contact in an Exhibition Zone: Displaying contemporary cultural diversity in Donegal Ireland, through an installation of visual and material portraits. Museum and Society 11(1): 50-67. Tuck, Eve and K. Wayne Yang, 2012. Decolonization is not a Metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1(1): 1-40.

Tuck, Eve and K. Wayne Yang, 2012. Decolonization is not a Metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1(1): 1-40.

2 thoughts on “#EOTalks 7: Untold Stories at the Museum of the Bible. Artifacts, Provenance, and Bias in the Contact Zone by Morag Kersel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s