holy puzzle

Dead Sea Scrolls

Drents Museum, Assen (NL)

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was one of the most revolutionary finds of the twentieth century.  This exhibition presents a total of sixteen scrolls. These scrolls are of vital importance for our knowledge of early Judaism and Christianity. Several fragments have not previously been shown to the public. Alongside the manuscripts, the exhibitions comprises over 400 special objects that hail from old Judea, Masada, En Gedi, Jerusalem and the caves of Qumran, which place the manuscripts in the cultural and historical context of the Greek-Roman period.

Assen (NL)
Drents Museum
890 m2
Concept, Spatial design, Graphic design
Michel de Vaan (lead), Herman Kossmann, Sietske Sips, Andreas Tscholl, Martin Saemmer, Pauline Fer
Building and realisation
Iris vormgeving BV, Facilitaire dienst Drents Museum, JPS2, Artcare
Lighting design
Frank Hulsebosch, Lichtpunt
Sound and soundscape
dB Audiovisueel, LPMA Recordings
Rijnja repro, Exposize, Multicopy
Image of an era

The exhibition introduces you to the era in which the manuscripts were produced and collected. Thematic vitrines display important aspects of daily life, such as the importance of cleanliness and water, but also the writing and burial culture. The uprising of the Jews against the Romans in 66 AD, and the subsequent war and destruction of the temple in 70 AD, led to the flight of the Jewish people. Everyday objects, scrolls of writings, but also a robe in which a deceased child was wrapped, are dramatic proof of this flight.


In ‘The Discovery’ pavilion, a film together with some objects, tells the unusual story surrounding the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in eleven caves near Qumran, between 1947 and 1956, and the journey the manuscripts have undertaken since then. The central square in the exhibition immerses you in an abstract desert. A strong light source casts long shadows of the visitors present, while a mysterious soundscape enhances the sense of being in a desert. Screens show film fragments of interviews with scholars.


The central square gives access to three pavilions, among which the space in which the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls are exhibited. Here you get to know how to interpret a fragment and are given translations of the texts. ‘The research lab’ dissects the Dead Sea Scrolls as archaeological artefacts. Visitors are challenged to discover more about the meaning of the text, the shape (material, type of script) and the conservation. ‘The three Abrahamic religions’ pavilion displays an old Bible, Quran and Torah.

The exhibition was conceived in close collaboration with guest conservator Prof. Dr. Mladen Popović of the Qumran Institute, The Department of Theology and Religious Studies of the University Groningen, and curator Adi Ziv of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.


International Design Awards 2013

Interior Design, gold