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In Memory

William Andrew Moffett

From his New York Times obituary: William A. Moffett, 62, Is Dead; Opened Door to Dead Sea Scrolls By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD Published: February 22, 1995 FACEBOOK TWITTER GOOGLE+ EMAIL SHARE PRINT REPRINTS Correction Appended William A. Moffett, a historian and librarian who was instrumental in breaking the 40-year monopoly on scholarly access to the Dead Sea Scrolls, died on Monday night at his home in Pasadena, Calif. He was 62.

The cause was cancer of the bladder, according to the Huntington Library in San Marino, where he had been the director since 1990.

As head of the Huntington, one of the world's largest independent research libraries, Dr. Moffett made a decision that was both widely criticized and widely praised, and had the effect of ending the absolute control of a few scholars over the study and publication of the scrolls, one of the great finds of biblical archeology. His action removed much of the secrecy that had surrounded the study of the documents and stimulated research by more scholars.

In September 1991, he announced that the library's photographic archive of the Dead Sea Scrolls would be available to all qualified scholars, not just those approved by the international team of editors that had so long limited access to a chosen few. The collection consists of 3,000 photographs of all the original scrolls.

A few other institutions also had photographic copies of the scrolls, made as a safeguard against loss of or damage to the originals in Jerusalem. But only the few members of the international team of editors and their students were permitted to study them. Dr. Moffett said the Huntington was not bound by restrictions imposed by the editing team.

In the ensuing days, he was threatened with a lawsuit and told that his action would open the documents to many people who might produce shoddy research. The scrolls, dating back 2,000 years and more, contain texts associated with the Bible, ancient literature and poetry, religious rules and other information from a critical time in the history of Judaism and the origins of Christianity.

Dr. James H. Charlesworth, editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, said Dr. Moffett "risked his reputation and career to do what he thought was right."

As a result, Dr. Charlesworth said, "now we have an explosion of interest in scrolls scholarship, and we have dispelled a lot of unfortunate myths that either Christians or Jews were sitting on the scrolls because they were embarrassed by what they contain about their religions."

William Andrew Moffett was born on Jan. 25, 1933, in Charlotte, N.C., the son of a Presbyterian minister. He was educated at Davidson College and received a doctorate in history from Duke University. He later received a master's degree in library science from Simmons College in Boston.

After teaching history at colleges for a decade, Dr. Moffett moved into library work, first as the library director at the State University of New York at Potsdam and then as the library director at Oberlin College in Ohio. He was president of the Association of College and Research Libraries in 1989 and 1990; two years ago, the association named him librarian of the year.

The Huntington, founded by the railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington, is one of the nation's foremost centers for the study of English and American history and literature and the history of science. Under Dr. Moffett's leadership, the library was automated and its endowment and collections were significantly increased.

He is survived by his wife, the former Deborah Ellen Hoover; two daughters, Pamela Padley of Irvine, Calif., and Stephanie Hynds of Pasadena, Calif.; two sons, William Andrew Jr., of Fletcher, N.C., and Charles Henry Buckers, of Manhattan; a sister, Mary Ann Mobley of Cowiche, Wash., and three grandsons.

Photo: William A. Moffett Correction: February 24, 1995, Friday An obituary on Wednesday about Dr. William A. Moffett, director of the Huntington Library of San Marino, Calif., who helped open the Dead Sea Scrolls to outside scholars, included an erroneous identification supplied by the library for a survivor and misstated his residence. The survivor, one of Dr. Moffett's sons, is Charles Henry Buckius Moffett; he lives in Brooklyn, not Manhattan.