The Museum of the Bible is a museum in Washington D.C. which documents the narrative, history and impact of the Bible. The museum opened on November 17, 2017. The museum claims to have amassed one of the largest assemblies of biblical artifacts and texts in the world through collaborations with private donors, institutions and other museums. The president of the museum, Cary Summers, said the goal was to “reacquaint the world with the book that helped make it, and let the visitor come to their own conclusions… We don’t exist to tell people what to believe about it”.
The museum was established as a nonprofit in 2010. The museum’s building location and design were announced in 2012 when the Green family purchased the 1923 Terminal Refrigerating and Warehousing Co. building, two blocks from the National Mall that used to be the Washington Design Center in Washington, D.C The estimated $400 million project updated the historically protected structure as well as adding two additional floors and a rooftop café and garden. The building’s 1923 original red brick, architecture and ornamentation was restored, with new bricks imported from Denmark. The primary building was awarded historical status by the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board. The glass-enclosed rooftop provides views of the United States Capitol, the Washington Monument and several Smithsonian museums. The construction efforts were led by Clark Construction. The architectural design team was led by SmithGroupJJR.
The primary donors to the museum at launch were the Green family and the National Christian Foundation.
The exhibitions claim to offer a scholarly perspective on the impact of the Bible in history. Bible scholar David Trobisch, director of the museum’s collections, advised on new acquisitions, identify the storylines for the museum’s exhibits and supervise a team of 30 scholars and curators. Indiana Wesleyan University professor Jerry Pattengale serves as Executive Director of Education Initiatives. The Museum has an external board of advisors, and works with Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and other religious and secular institutions.
Each of the six floors in the museum contain a different exhibit which emphasizes different aspects of the Bible’s history or impact. This includes three permanent exhibit floors, each measuring 55,000 square feet (5,100 m²). The first floor combines ancient artifacts with modern technology meant to immerse the participant in the Bible. The front entrance on 4th Street SW features 40-foot (12 meter) tall, 2.5-ton (2,300 kg) bronze front doors with stained glass art containing a relief depicting the creation account in Genesis. There is also a grand lobby with a 200-foot (60 meter) LED ceiling allowing for changing visual effects and messages.
The second floor focuses on the Bible’s impact on world culture and history. The third level presents the general narrative of the Bible from Abraham through the creation of Israel to the ministry of Jesus and the early church. This floor contains a large Jewish Bible section. The fourth floor presents biblical history and archaeology. Trobisch stated that the museum “will not whitewash conflicts in Christian history but will explain the arguments that were made at the time”. The fifth level contains a performing arts theater with a 500-person amphitheater. The museum plans to sponsor scholarly lectures as well as multimedia performances relating to the Bible. The fifth floor also contains separate exhibit space for displays presented by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Level six consists of a rooftop viewing areas overlooking the National Mall and U.S. Capitol, stained glass exhibits, and a ballroom that seats 1,000 guests the museum’s artifact research facility and reference library is located in a one-story addition to the roof of a neighboring office complex.
Several museum partners are responsible for the design and layout of the various exhibits. The PRD Group was responsible for the history of the Bible floor. PRD Group has previously collaborated on exhibits at Smithsonian National Museum of American History and National Museum of Natural History. BRC Imagination Arts is developing the narrative of the Bible floor. Jonathan Martin Creative recreated a Nazareth village from the first century. C&G Partners led the design of the impact of the Bible floor. Previous work by C&G Partners includes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The museum contains more than 40,000 objects] and artifacts from the time of Abraham through the New Testament period. Planned artifacts include biblical papyri, Torah scrolls, rare printed Bibles, Jewish artifacts and contemporary treasures of Christian and Jewish culture. The museum has made arrangements to exhibit significant archaeological artifacts owned by collaborating institutions and private collectors such as the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Louvre. Steve Green has donated 13 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls for exhibition at the museum, along with thousands of other ancient artifacts from his personal collection. Additional initial exhibits include remains from Julia Ward Howe’s original manuscript for the famous song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as well as a replica of the Liberty Bell upon which is engraved the Bible verse from Leviticus “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”.
The roof of the museum features a Biblical garden.
On November 16, 2017, museum officials held an opening gala and reception for the facility at the Trump International Hotel Washington D.C. in the Old Post Office Building. A single seat at the fundraising event cost $2,500. A number of museum employees and academic consultants refused to enter, citing the problem of having the event in a hotel affiliated with the controversial president of the United States, Donald Trump.
The museum officially opened at a private dedication ceremony held during the next day.