"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wWednesday, October 12, 2005

PR IS AS PR DOES: I hesitate to link to this piece by me simply because it doesn't fall under the normal strictures of capital 'J' Journalism. It may or may not read like a feature story but it was requested and written for the alumni magazine of my accidental alma mater, Trinity Western University. On the other hand, I'm not sure it would have turned out all that differently if another Canadian publication solicited it, so here it is.

Scrolling on Up

Providence or coincidence -- you make the call. Last November, I found myself booked on the same flight as TWU religious studies professor Peter Flint, Ph.D. We met at the check-in counter at Bellingham International Airport.

"Mister Lott!" he boomed with his discernable South African accent, bushy eyebrows flaring. "How are you doing?!"

We exchanged smiles and pleasantries, navigated airport security, and boarded the aircraft. Flint was seated a row behind me at the rear of the packed two-engine prop plane for the jump to Seattle's Sea-Tac airport. My neck started to ache from craning to talk with my former Greek instructor, so we put off serious discussion until we touched down and located an airport lounge.

At Sea-Tac, over eggs, coffee and a Diet Coke, Professor Flint burbled with enthusiasm. From there, he was moving on to lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls, as part of a touring exhibit of a collection of scrolls in North American museums that began in 2003 and ends this year.

Flint fretted about how, at each stop, the local curator invariably would worry that the museum might not be able to recoup its substantial investment in the exhibit.

"I tell them, 'Don't worry about it!'" Flint told me, and continued, "This is going to be big! People will come out to see the Dead Sea Scrolls!"

So far, ticket sales to see the exhibit and listen to scholars explain the significance of the scrolls have borne out Flint's predictions. In Mobile, Alabama, the unexpected demand for tickets led to a venue change for the lectures. Since the Gulf Coast Explorium auditorium could not seat the crowds, talks were moved to a nearby church.

The article in the Mobile Register began, "Yea verily, they came. And they keep on coming in waves: singles, couples, families, church and school groups; the young, old and middle-aged. They drive in from Birmingham, Chattanooga, Panama City, Florida, and beyond."

In the middle of February, the Register reported that the exhibit was "on a pace to shatter daily attendance records for Mobile and the region." Museum executive director W. Michael Sullivan worried that the crowds might overwhelm the exhibit -- a far cry from the museum taking a bath on the scrolls. [more]

posted by Jeremy at 3:41 PM