UW News

October 12, 2006

‘Emerald City Search: A Community Quest’ starts Oct. 19

UW News

A Bedouin goat-herd claimed, at least, to be chasing a wayward goat when he happened upon the cave containing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

But if you want to go on your own Dead Sea Scrolls-related quest — and that’s exactly what the UW College of Arts & Sciences and Alumni Association, the Pacific Science Center, the Hillel Foundation and The Seattle Times are offering this month — you won’t have to chase a goat.

You’ll be looking for a special medallion, and if you’re the one who finds it, you’ll get $2,500 in cash and prizes.

The event is called the Emerald City Search: A Community Quest, and is meant to stir community interest in the Pacific Science Center’s historic exhibit, Discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls, which opened in September and runs until Jan. 7, 2007. The exhibit features four scrolls never before seen by the public and another being viewed outside Israel for the first time, along with other artifacts from the ancient settlement of Qumran, near the Dead Sea.

Marilyn Kliman, senior director of communications for the College of Arts & Sciences, who is helping to promote the contest, said the UW had been looking for innovative outreach ideas, to underscore the institution’s ongoing connection to the community and opportunities for lifelong learning, and this fit perfectly.

“It’s just a fabulous, fun thing to do around a community exhibit that we’re excited about,” she said, adding that the UW has several of the leading scholars on the subject of ancient near eastern languages and civilizations. She said the idea for the contest came from Rabbi Will Berkovitz of the campus Hillel Center, who recalled a similar treasure hunt conducted annually in St. Paul, Minn.

Here’s how it will work: Every day for 10 days beginning Oct. 19, The Seattle Times (and its online counterpart, at www.seattletimes.com) will print a new clue to lead the curious to the location of the mysterious medallion.

Contest rules state several things that would-be medallion explorers will want to know. To wit:

  • The medallion, if you find it, will be easily removed from its surroundings. You don’t need to disturb property in any way.
  • The medallion is not located at Seattle Center.
  • The medallion is not on private property, but on public property and easily accessible.
  • There will be no need to climb, crawl or clamber to get the medallion once it is spotted.

Several scholars from the UW helped develop the clues that will grow easier as the days go on. The UW’s expert clue-creators were Julie Stein, director, and Andrew Whiteman, senior curator of exhibits at the Burke Museum; Stan Chernicoff, professor of Earth and Space Sciences; Scott Noegel, chair of the Near Eastern Languages & Civilization Department, and Jim Clauss, professor and chair of the Classics Department.

Chernicoff, who did his work on clues through the Labor Day weekend after a summer off campus, said, “The whole point was inspiring the participants to study and learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and embedded in the clues were things that would force people to know about the scrolls, their origin, their discovery and the people responsible for discovering them.”

He said the role of the clue-makers was not only to lead participants to the location of the medallion, but also “to stimulate some thinking about this 2,000-year-old phenomenon.” It was a challenge, he said, to have the clues refer not only to the current landscape, where the medallion is, but also to the ancient world of the scrolls themselves.

The clues are of varying difficulty, and Kliman said it’s not possible to find the medallion based only on the first few clues. “We’re building up to a description not only of where it’s located, but also exactly what you’re looking for.”

And so on Oct.19 the game will begin. Naturally, no one involved in the creation of the contest in the College of Arts & Sciences, the UW Alumni Association or the Pacific Science Center, or their families, will be allowed to participate. If no one finds the medallion by Oct. 29, contest organizers reserve the right to end the quest.

Kliman sounded especially proud of the connection forged between the academic-based UW and the Pacific Science Center, which blends popular science and entertainment. Both institutions are dedicated to outreach and lifelong learning, she said.

“It shows that the UW can play a role in your life whether you go here or never set a foot on campus.”

For more information about the Emerald City Search: A Community Quest, visit online at http://www.UWalum.com/emeraldcitysearch/.