In the 1840s famed archaeologist, Sir Austen Henry Layard, received permission from the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Sultan to excavate carvings discovered in Nimrud. Three of these reliefs were shipped to VTS in 1859 and for decades they were displayed. In 2017, a routine insurance audit revealed the value of the 3,000 year old tablets had more than quadrupled, raising insurance premiums, as well as our concerns about their unsecured location.As caretakers for these reliefs for almost 180 years, the Board of Trustees weighed every option, ultimately deciding that in order to respectfully retain any of the tablets, one needed to be sold.
Yesterday was bittersweet. I was in New York for the selling of the largest of the three reliefs - the so-called "Bearded Genius." Bidding was rapid. It took little more than five minutes. At the end, the "Hammer Price" (the amount we receive) was $27,250,000. Funds will be used for conservation and display of a remaining pair of carvings, which will be the subject of a scholarly symposium next summer. This is good. Additional proceeds will underwrite Bicentennial initiatives such as scholarship funds, an endowment tithe of the proceeds for outreach, and other Board priorities.
We are those living at this crucial time in our Church’s history to get the Seminary right for the future. This is our challenge and our privilege.
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. Dean and President