The Museum of the Bible will offer free admission when it opens its 430,000 square-foot facility on Nov. 17, officials announced Friday. The nonprofit museum will suggest a donation of $15 for entry but it will not require guests to pay anything.
“Our mission is to invite all people to engage with the Bible, and with a suggested donation we believe more people will come,” Vice President of Marketing Steven Bickley said.
Operating in a city where many museums have free admission, officials decided a suggested donation was the best policy. “Our goal is to be self-sustaining, so you have a trade-off,” Bickley said. “The rate will go down but we will have a higher volume.”
Museum officials also announced advanced timed passes will be available online starting Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. The tickets extend 90 days and will be available on the website, museumofthebible.org. Individuals may obtain tickets without making a donation, Bickley said.
“The timed-ticket approach is based on the experience of the African American Museum, to help with crowd control,” he said, referring to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened last year. “We are hoping for the same kind or greater demand for our museum.”
Bickley said the Museum of the Bible is offering memberships as a way to ask its core audience to support the effort to attract others. Memberships start at $60 for individuals and $150 for families and include benefits such as the ability to book timed tickets up to a year in advance, and access to the museum two hours ahead of it 10 a.m. opening.
“We really think that people will rally to that, and buy memberships to allow other people to visit for free,” he said.
The museum is under construction in the former Washington Design Center, a brick building a blocks from the Capitol near the Federal Center Metro Station in Southwest Washington. Founded by Hobby Lobby chief executive Steve Green, who has amassed a collection of biblical texts and artifacts, the museum boasts eight floors that will feature exhibition space, a library, theater, restaurant, rooftop garden and banquet room.
Last month, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts. The clay pieces are not part of the museum’s collection but were purchased by Hobby Lobby for $1.6 million in 2010 and shipped to the Oklahoma headquarters of the craft store chain.