A new multimedia history museum is now under construction in Washington, D.C.—an eight-story, 430,000 square-foot experience dedicated to the best-selling, most-read and most-banned book of all time: the Bible.
Slated to open in fall 2017, the Museum of the Bible will be a significant addition to the city’s cultural and tourism landscape, offering a scholarly approach to the ancient biblical text—with a modern presentation.
“Our research shows that an estimated 2 million people per year will visit the museum once it opens,” says Shannon Bennett, community relations director for Museum of the Bible.
The driving force behind the new museum is Oklahoma businessman Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby (below). In June, he and his family won a contentious Supreme Court case, a decision hailed by the pro-life movement as a victory for religious freedom.
The Washington Post recently chronicled Green’s personal journey to becoming chairman of Museum of the Bible:
The product of an Oklahoma family filled with pastors, Green has long been driven to spread the story of the Bible. He has poured millions into translation projects in developing nations and is a major benefactor to conservative evangelical universities, including Oral Roberts and Baylor.
After purchasing a few valuable artifacts beginning in 2009 during the economic recession, within a few years Green gradually acquired one of the world’s largest collection of biblical relics and manuscript—now nearly 50,000 items, from the time of Abraham (father of the Jewish nation) to the modern era.
Green’s team of scholars preview the museum’s vast collection in a new video:
“We have all sorts of artifacts that tell the story,” says Bennett. “Stained glass windows, Julia Ward Howe’s hand-written ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ lyrics, Dead Sea Scroll fragments—and we place them in immersive environments.”
But Green will not purchase merely any relic. “Each item in the collection helps tell one of three stories,” notes Bennett.
She explains, “First, to reveal how the Bible was translated and transmitted throughout the ages; to demonstrate the Bible’s impact on culture, including government, the arts, sciences, even humor; and finally, to demonstrate the narrative of the Bible itself, with artifacts that illustrate the stories.”
The heart of the eight-story museum will be those three narrative ideas—entire floors dedicated to the Bible’s historical journey, narrative stories and global impact.
“We take a strong scholarly approach with the museum; this is not about proselytizing, rather tracing the Bible’s journey across history,” says Bennett.
She hints that other prominent institutions are catching the museum’s vision, noting, “We are in discussions with other prestigious international museums regarding their potential involvement in the D.C. project.”
Even the artistic elements of the museum, like stained glass, will tell part of the story. “Stained glass is significant because, in the Middle Ages, most people were illiterate,” Bennett explains. “People learned the stories of the Bible through the stained glass.”
The museum’s unique blend of ancient art, touchscreen technology and in-depth scholarship is no small project.
As the New York Times reports, “Adding up the value of over 40,000 planned artifacts, the real estate and the cost of renovations, the museum is an $800 million venture.” While Green and his family are the primary backers, a larger campaign to involve others in the project is underway.
Cary Summers, chief operations officer for Museum of the Bible, explained in a recent interview why Washington, D.C., was chosen for the museum.
“Because the city is known as a destination for world-class museums, studies conducted by the museum team found that the Museum of the Bible would be best attended in Washington as opposed to other cities,” he says.
As community relations director, Bennett has cultivated relationships with many faith-based groups in the area.
“Whether it’s a policy group like Family Research Council or prayer groups like Justice House of Prayer and David’s Tent, God has called so many people to Washington who are passionate about His Word and about our nation,” she notes.
Bennett believes the museum will be a connecting point for many diverse groups driven by a faith grounded in the Bible. “I had someone come up to me crying the other day and say, ‘We’ve been waiting for something like this for so long.’”
“God has given me the gift of encouragement,” she says. “This is really the answer to so many prayers that have been lifted up over many years.”
Dr. Josephine Dru, a biblical scholar featured in the museum’s new video, states, “We’re trying to do justice to the wide range of people who have claimed this book as their own—and have participated in its becoming one book.”
Getting to this point, with construction now in full-swing, has been quite a journey as the extensive Washington Post story notes:
In July 2012 the museum’s board purchased for $50 million the 430,000-square-foot Washington Design Center, a massive red brick building that was built in 1919 as a refrigerated warehouse.
Bennett picks up the history of the building. “Virginia Railway trains used to unload their produce here; with the invention of freezer cars, this building fell into disuse until the 1980s.”
She continues, “John F. Kennedy’s father Joseph purchased it and opened the Washington Design Center, which for decades has served as a showroom for high-end furniture makers.”
These custom designers and artisans have now moved 15 blocks away, to the newly christened Washington Design Center in Northwest D.C., allowing interior demolition work to proceed.
For Museum of the Bible, the building is only one element of the development process underway. Both live-action and animated film content—to be shown as “holograms and on video screens that re-enact historical scenes related to the Bible” as a recent report stated—are in production.
To use the biblical vernacular, watch and pray for more details to come.
Originally appeared on Bound4LIFE.com.