Billed as Christianity’s answer to the Smithsonian Institution – the world’s largest museum complex – Museum of the Bible opens this weekend in downtown Washington, just steps from the National Mall and the White House.
Housing 3100 artefacts and historic relics, including fragments that may be of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the world’s largest collection of Torahs, and Elvis Presley’s Bible, the museum aims to make the Bible “cool” and represent the public face of Christianity in 21st century America.
Created at an estimated cost of $400 million in a transformed 95-year-old warehouse, the museum offers an immersive exploration of the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible, using cutting-edge technology to bring the Bible to life.
Long-term exhibits include treasures from the Vatican Museum and archaeological antiquities from Egypt. Opening special exhibits include a reconstruction of an ancient city that was traditionally the site of the showdown between David and Goliath and a collection of rare illuminated manuscripts from the 15th century exploring the Christmas story.
…the museum “will not whitewash conflicts in Christian history but will explain the arguments that were made at the time”.
There is also a contemporary art exhibition exploring the Bible as a source of creative inspiration by artist and writer Makoto Fujimura, who tweeted that the museum: “is an absolute Triumph! A must see stop for your holiday season. Make sure you plan for more than a day…”
Each of the six floors in the museum focus on different aspects of the Bible’s history or impact.
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. The fourth floor presents biblical history and archaeology.
Bible scholar David Trobisch, director of the museum’s collections has said the museum “will not whitewash conflicts in Christian history but will explain the arguments that were made at the time”.
Above a performing arts theatre on the fifth floor, the top floor consists of a rooftop viewing area overlooking the National Mall and US Capitol, stained glass exhibits, and a ballroom that seats 1000 guests.