With a subject sacred and central to diverse faiths, the Museum of the Bible aims to appeal to religions of all kinds, and to those who don’t believe in any.
Washington’s newest museum — set to open Nov. 17 in a 430,000-square-foot building a few blocks south of the Mall — will be chock-full of artifacts and exhibitions focused on the Bible’s long history and social impact. It will also sport high-tech activities and displays that will connect the ancient text to contemporary life in fun and engaging ways.
The museum, which is the $500 million brainchild of Hobby Lobby chief executive Steve Green, will showcase some of the rarest of biblical texts — from Torah scrolls to 14th-century illuminated manuscripts — alongside an amusement-park-like ride called Washington Destinations that takes visitors on a virtual aerial tour of Washington sites and an immersive experience of Jesus’ Nazareth. There will be a children’s area emphasizing courage, and an entire floor dedicated to Bible stories.
The museum takes a high-tech approach to the visitor experience, offering custom tours tailored to both time and interest. Guests receive digital guides that are connected to every gallery on the three main exhibition floors. As visitors approach a gallery or artifact, information or an activity is triggered on their devices. State-of-the-art video, augmented reality and interactive displays complement the historic and textual artifacts.
The museum has a research arm that supports scholars from academic institutions around the world. Its educational department is developing curriculums for schools, including public schools in Israel.
A nonprofit corporation founded in 2010, the museum has renovated the former Washington Design Center. The project has meant demolishing the interior, lowering the ground floor to add basement space and building a glass enclosure on the roof. When construction is complete, the museum will house a 472-seat performing arts hall, a banquet area that can seat 420, a restaurant and rooftop garden. The glass-enclosed top floor offers views of downtown.