Washington – Museum of the Bible’s Chairman of the Board, Steve Green, makes the following statement on Iraqi and Egyptian Items:
In March 2020, I announced that Museum of the Bible curators had quietly and painstakingly researched the provenance of the many thousands of items in the collection of biblical manuscripts and artifacts that I began acquiring in 2009. I also announced the research revealed several thousand items that likely originated from Iraq and Egypt, but for which there was insufficient reliable provenance information, and those items would be returned to their likely countries of origin.
On May 19, 2020, I executed and delivered a legal document transferring title of 8,106 clay objects to the Republic of Iraq. On May 22, 2020, I also executed and delivered a legal document transferring title of approximately 5,000 papyri fragments and other items to the Arab Republic of Egypt. On June 18, 2020, all of these items were delivered to separate independent, third-party fine art storage facilities for the care, custody, control, and benefit of Iraq and Egypt respectively.
Over the next several months, we continued the discussions with various Iraqi and Egyptian officials that first began in late 2017, to establish mutually beneficial relationships with The Iraq Museum in Bagdad and The Coptic Museum in Cairo. Those discussions involved technical assistance programs, potential loans, and exhibitions that would allow our patrons to learn more about the cultural history of each country. During the discussions with Iraqi officials, we learned the 3,800 clay objects that the U.S. Government repatriated from our collection to the Republic of Iraq in May 2018 were still in storage at the Iraq Embassy in Washington D.C. We offered to help coordinate and pay for the shipment of those 3,800 clay objects along with the 8,106 clay objects held in storage for Iraq to The Iraq Museum in Bagdad. We made a similar offer to Egypt.
While our ongoing discussions with Iraqi and Egyptian officials have been cordial and promising, we were not able to finalize the desired agreements nor resolve the logistics of shipping the items to Iraq and Egypt. As a result, we enlisted the help of U.S. government officials to assist with the delivery of the items.
On January 7, 2021, we transferred control of the fine art storage facility that housed the 5,000 Egyptian items to the U.S. government as part of a voluntary administrative process. We understand the U.S. government has now delivered the papyri to Egyptian officials. On January 27, 2021, we initiated the shipment of the 8,106 clay objects to The Iraq Museum in Bagdad. We appreciate the assistance and professionalism of the U.S. government officials in helping with the logistics of these repatriations.
Going forward, we will continue to look for ways to partner with The Iraq Museum, The Coptic Museum, and other institutions, to provide assistance with preserving and celebrating the rich cultural histories of those countries and many others.
Chairman of the Board
Museum of the Bible