Washington’s Museum of the Bible will be opening its doors to visitors this weekend.
Privately funded by Steve Green, the evangelical owner of the arts and crafts retail chain of Hobby Lobby, the $500 million museum will feature a huge array of artifacts both from Green’s private collection and from traveling exhibits from around the world.
The museum, which its website says aims to engage visitors with the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible, is opening amid some controversy after Green settled a $3 million case involving smuggling artifacts earlier this year.
But the Museum of the Bible's opening is also hotly anticipated for its showcase of rare artifacts like portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As the museum prepares to open to the public, here's what you can expect inside.
Where is the Museum of the Bible?
The 430,000-square-foot Museum of the Bible will be located in Washington, D.C., about two blocks from the National Mall. It will replace the former Washington Design Center, with the original building itself dating back to 1920. Green said when first announcing the opening of the museum that he chose Washington, D.C., as the location because it's the "museum capital of the world."
While the building was restored for the project, museum representatives were able to get historic landmark status for it from Washington's Historic Preservation review board.
When is the Museum of the Bible Opening?
The Museum of the Bible will have its grand opening on Friday, November 17, with admission starting at 10 a.m. for the general public, and at 8 a.m. for those who register as members of the museum.
What Will You Find Inside the Museum of the Bible?
The museum will include eight floors and a wide selection of rare biblical artifacts. The entrance itself is impressive, with huge bronze gates inscribed with text from the Bible inviting visitors inside. Technological elements are all a part of the show, with innovative features that include digital guides you can carry throughout your visit and audio readings of the biblical 10 plagues that include smog and lighting elements to showcase the Nile turning to blood.
Some of the other exhibits include manuscripts from the Vatican museum, bibles in over 1,000 languages, and a 472-seat theater where you'll be able to see daily narratives and performances.
What is the History of the Bible Museum?
Green’s massive collection of biblical artifacts, which the museum calls one of the world’s largest, became the starting point for the museum eight years back.
In 2010, the Museum of Bible was established as a 501 nonprofit, and museum officials announced in 2011 that they would be gathering with leaders in the business and religious sectors at the Vatican Embassy in Washington to discuss next steps.
Purchasing what would be the location for the museum back in July of 2012 for $50 million, museum representatives then spoke to the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts, the local D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board to make sure its design was suited to the area. Construction on the museum finally began back in February of 2015.
How do You Get Museum of the Bible Tickets?
To reserve your tickets to the museum, head to www.museumofthebible.org/tickets. Tickets are by timed admission, with time slots available every 15 minutes from opening to close. Admission is free.
While tickets are by timed entrance, visitors are invited to explore the museum at their own leisure, with representatives saying it would take as long as nine days and eight hours to see every item that's currently on display. The museum is currently booked for the opening weekend, though tickets are available starting on November 20.
How is Hobby Lobby Involved in the Museum of the Bible?
Green, who is the president of Hobby Lobby, is also the owner of a large collection of biblical texts and artifacts that include pages from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which Green began putting together back in November of 2009. The artifacts became part of a exhibition called “Passages”, which debuted in locations that include Oklahoma City and St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City back in 2012.
After establishing the museum as a nonprofit back in 2011, Green was able to take his vision of turning this collection into a permanent museum and make it a reality.
That being said, his involvement in suing the federal government over mandates for contraception coverage in 2014 and the $3 million smuggling case, which museum representatives said is not related to any of the items that will be found in the museum, has some critics weary that the privately funded museum may be more of a way for the family to promote specific religious views rather than take a closer look at the subjects.