This third-fourth century Greek parchment fragment containing a few partial verses from Leviticus 27 was discovered in Oxyrhynchus and published by Grenfell and Hunt in 1915. I was unaware that this fragment belonged to the Green Collection until an image of it was posted as an "artifact of the day" on the Museum of the Bible's Facebook page. Interestingly, this fragment has a problematic history. In the early 20th century, it was donated by the Egyptian Exploration Fund (now Society) to Crozer Theological Seminary (now Colgate Rochester Divinity School). But this institution ultimately deaccessioned the item. In June 2003, it was sold at a Sotheby's auction for a whopping $36,000 USD. Unfortunately, universities and museums sometimes sell off some or all of their items in order to raise money. Most recently, P.Oxy. 15.1596, a papyrus fragment of John, was deaccessioned by the Pacific School of Religion and sold to an American private collector (full story here). Anyway, the little parchment fragment now in the Green Collection was part of a larger lot of papyri sold on Sotheby's back in June 2003, and scholars debated the sale. Robert Kraft, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, had this to say (originally posted on the PaleoJudaica blog here; slightly edited below):
"It may be of interest to the paleojudaica site that a problematic precedent has been set (or perhaps merely expanded) by the auction on 20 June 2003 of 29 published papyri fragments from Oxyrhynchus, including P.Oxy. 1351 LXX Leviticus, that had been donated in the early 20th century to Crozer Theological Seminary (now part of Colgate Rochester Divinity School) by the Egyptian Exploration Fund (now the Egyptian Exploration Society). The materials were divided into 9 lots, and brought a staggering total of $646,000. The most prized piece in terms of bids was P.Oxy. 1780, from the Gospel of John, which went for $350,000. The tiny parchment Leviticus fragment brought "only" $30,000 [correction: $36,000]. The names of the successful bidders are unknown to me.
Fortunately, not only were all these papyri already published in the P.Oxy. volumes, but they had recently been included in the American Theological Library Association "Cooperative Digital Resources Initiative" and thus can be viewed publicly on the internet -- http://www.atla.com/digitalresources/ (Search the DataBase, Limit by Collection, check off Oxyrhynchus Papyri and "Submit," keyword "Oxy," click on descriptions and images). The images and descriptions can even be offloaded ("Save As").
The situation was discussed at some length on the PAPY scholarly electronic list, and some late attempts to stop or delay the sale were addressed both to the sellers (the Trustees at Colgate Rochester Divinity School -- the Library that housed the fragments apparently was not complicit in the sale) and the legal department of the agent (Sotheby's in New York City). Egyptian Exploration Society officers issued a statement that emphasized the intent of EES that the materials were for public use, through museums and libraries. I'm not aware that the Egyptian authorities were apprized of the situation or issued any statement, although it could be argued that ultimately, this is Egyptian property. Some have questioned the right of a not-for-profit institution (CRDS) to sell to the highest bidder materials obtained by "donation" from a not-for-profit organization (EEF). It clearly seems to be a "moral" issue, even if its "legal" status remains murky; and a very questionable precedent!"
This is a good example of how artifacts can "move" on the market. They leave a museum, exchange multiple hands, and sometimes they simply disappear. I suppose the good thing in this case is that the item is now in a public museum, which was the original condition of donation by the Egyptian Exploration Society (EES). Several questions remain, however. Who bought the item from Sotheby's? From whom did the Green Collection buy the fragment? Does the EES approve of the artifact's relocation? Should it, in fact, be returned to the EES? Will scholars be given access to the fragment for research purposes? And a related question: will the Green Collection ever deaccession any of its items, and if so, how will they do it?