Christopher Benfey, author, If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years
Vermeer’s The Concert, taken from its frame in the Gardner Museum in 1990 and never recovered. A painting about life’s fugitive joys—music, friendship, the changing light—it turned out to be a fleeting joy itself.
James Grant, author, Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian
We have Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s, and John’s. A fifth Gospel is the treasure I’d like to find. What did Jesus do during the early years of his life? The fifth evangelist would break the news.
Ann Bancroft, explorer and author
The photographic plates of Frank Hurley. During Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica, the ship was frozen in the sea ice and crushed. All men and equipment were jettisoned onto the ice. When they had to travel to survive, Hurley left behind many of his heavy negative plates. Shackleton—not fully trusting that Hurley wouldn’t backtrack and fetch them—made him destroy them on the ice.
Monica L. Smith, anthropologist and author, Cities: The First 6,000 Years
A bilingual inscription from Mesopotamia that would let us decipher the 4,000-year-old Harappan script of the Indian subcontinent. Finding it would enable 1 billion–plus people to unlock their earliest history.
Peter Hessler, author, The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution
The tomb of Nefertiti. She must be out there, because her burial goods haven’t appeared in other tombs or artifact collections. And evidence indicates that she ruled as pharaoh after the death of her husband, Akhenaten. Her tomb would reveal much about the period when the ruling couple tried to revolutionize ancient Egyptian faith and art.