In yet another fascinating video unearthed by David Bradnick, “Seeking Sappho,” we see Oxford Professor Dirk Obbink at work on the Hobby Lobby (Green Collection) Sappho fragments:
There are several strange features of this video. First, some of the footage is the same as that which is included in a promotional video released in 2013 for the “Ancient Lives” project. Second, there appears to be some chronological confusion. At the 3:45 mark in the video, the first appearance of the London Sappho fragments is placed in spring of 2015, which cannot be right, as the London fragments had been publicly revealed already in 2014 (full chronology here). But that is just the beginning.
In one segment, the Green Collection Sappho fragments seem to be in the papyrology rooms of the Sackler Library, quite far from their new home in Oklahoma (or is it Washington, D.C.?). The film editing is choppy and odd, but it does seem that the plate of Green fragments was with the scholars at Oxford. I wonder when that visit took place? Watch the clip at about 6:37-7:07:
Finally and most alarmingly, there is a segment that, according to the captions of the video, seems to have been filmed at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Professor Obbink works on the Green fragments. The item to the right of them looks like a photograph of the London fragments:
What is alarming is when the camera angle shifts, we see in the lower right corner of the frame what appear to be two tin boxes of exactly the kind that are used to house the unpublished fragments from Grenfell and Hunt’s Oxyrhynchus excavations for the Egypt Exploration Society:
For the purposes of comparison, here are a couple images of this type of box back at Oxford (note the latches):
So, if the caption of the Sappho video is accurate, and if it’s right that the tin boxes in the video are from the EES (big “if”s, I know), it raises the question of what exactly these boxes were doing at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which opened in 2017.
I would tend to think the caption in the Sappho video is simply a mistake, as the microscope at the desk looks much like those in use at the Sackler and the wood panels in the background also look like those in the Sackler. But that would again raise the question of when the Green Collection Sappho fragments would have made the trip from the US to Oxford. I wonder if any Museum of the Bible staff could clarify?
Lots to ponder with this video (and thanks again to David Bradnick for digging it up). I encourage people to watch the whole video here.