By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Members of the news media got a rare opportunity today to photograph the Dead Sea Scrolls before the exhibit opens to the public on Saturday at the Franklin Institute.

The photographs were allowed only without flash.  But even that was surprising considering the fragility of these 2,000-year-old documents, the first of which were found in a cave in 1947 near the Dead Sea in what is now Israel.

Some of the scrolls were even out of their cases today; co-curator Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn explains they were still being placed.

dead sea scrolls setup hadas Historic Dead Sea Scrolls Readied For Their Closeup at Franklin Institute

(A conservator places a portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls in a display case at the Franklin Institute. Credit: Hadas Kuznits)

“The show doesn’t officially open until Saturday, but the conservators who work on the scrolls are known for their meticulous care,” Kohn said.

Hear or download the Risa Levitt Kohn podcast (runs 7:18)…


Photography will not be permitted once the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit opens.  Kohn says they’re trying to replicate the environment of the caves in which these writing were discovered.

“The humidity, the temperature, and the lighting levels are all very closely controlled,” Kohn explained.

dead sea scrolls fragments hadas Historic Dead Sea Scrolls Readied For Their Closeup at Franklin Institute

(Credit: Hadas Kuznits)

Ten scrolls will be on display for three months, and they will then be exchanged for other scrolls.

“It’s kind of a push-pull situation, where on the one hand you have these incredible artifacts you want people to see, you want to be able to show them, you want to be able to educate people about them, but you also want to ensure that the damage done is minimal,” Kohn said today.

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