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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.[2] With 1150 items from the museum’s permanent collection and 2000 items on loan from other institutions and collections[3], 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.[4]

Museum of the Bible
Museum of the Bible.png
Museumofthebible-2017-11-04-exterior-front-up.jpg
Museum of the Bible, November 4, 2017 before opening
Museum of the Bible is located in Central Washington, D.C.
Museum of the Bible
Location within Washington, D.C.
Established 2010 (2010)
Location 409 3rd St SW Washington, D.C., United States[1]
Coordinates 38°53′05″N 77°01′01″W / 38.8847222°N 77.0169444°W / 38.8847222; -77.0169444Coordinates: 38°53′05″N 77°01′01″W / 38.8847222°N 77.0169444°W / 38.8847222; -77.0169444
Type History museum
Collection size 40,000+
Founder Steve Green
Executive director Tony Zeiss
President Cary Summers
Curator David Trobisch
Architect David Greenbaum
Public transit access WMATA Metro Logo.svg                Federal Center SW
Website www.museumofthebible.org

The museum says it is nonsectarian, non-political, and that it will not proselytize.[5] 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".[5]

In the year before its launch, however, it had to field questions about the acquisition of its collection, including a federal case over smuggled Iraqi antiquities and thousands of clay artifacts.[6] It has also faced criticism that it provides an overly Protestant viewpoint, with consideration given to Jewish and Roman Catholic views but ignoring the views of Orthodox Christianity and Islam, or those of scholars, who do not consider that the Bible contains a coherent story.[7][8] Despite the museum's nonsectarian stance, members of the museum's board of directors are required to sign a "faith statement."[9]

Contents

HistoryEdit

The museum was established as a nonprofit in 2010.[4] The museum’s building location and design were announced in 2012 when the Green family purchased the 1923 Terminal Refrigerating and Warehousing Co. building,[10] two blocks from the National Mall that used to be the Washington Design Center in Washington, D.C.[11][12] 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.[13][14][15][16] 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.[16]

The primary donors to the museum at launch were the Green family and the National Christian Foundation.[17]

Projected exhibitsEdit

The exhibitions intend to offer a scholarly perspective on the impact of the Bible in history.[18] Bible scholar David Trobisch, director of the museum's collections, was hired to advise on new acquisitions, identify the storylines for the museum's exhibits, and supervise a team of thirty scholars and curators.[19][20] Indiana Wesleyan University professor Jerry Pattengale serves as Executive Director of Education Initiatives.[21] The Museum has an external board of advisors, and works with Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and other religious and secular institutions.[5]

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).[16] 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 tonnes (2,500 kg) bronze front doors with stained glass art containing a relief depicting the creation account in Genesis.[16][22] There is also a grand lobby with a 200-foot (60 meter) LED ceiling allowing for changing visual effects and messages.[16]

The second floor focuses on the Bible's impact on world culture, in areas like science, justice, and freedom. Another section is dedicated to the Bible's impact in American history.

The third floor 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 also 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.

The sixth floor 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.[4][22][16] The museum's artifact research facility and reference library is located in a one-story addition to the roof of a neighboring office complex.[16]

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.[16]

The museum contains more than 40,000 objects[citation needed] and artifacts, ranging 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.[23] 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.[4][24] 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.[25] 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".[26][27]

The roof of the museum will feature a Biblical garden.[18][28]

Food servicesEdit

"Equinox" owners and "The Jewish Table" authors Todd and Ellen Gray will operate two establishments in the museum. "Manna" will be an Israeli-Mediterranean street food cafe featuring such biblical foods as flatbread and date honey as well as traditional Middle Eastern foods such as falafel and hummus. "Milk and Honey" will be a 70-seat coffee shop offering cappuccinos, lattes, and teas as well as snacks and sandwiches. The Grays will also provide catering for events at the museum. Many of the food offerings will be certified as kosher.[28][29][30]

ReceptionEdit

Despite its claims to factuality, the museum has come under criticism by academics, who were wary of the original wording of the mission, which described an evangelistic purpose of the museum, namely, to "inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible."[31][10] A newer statement has shifted away from that language. The revised 2013 mission statement reads, "We exist to invite all people to engage with the Bible. We invite Biblical exploration through museum exhibits and scholarly pursuits."[31]

Collections management controversyEdit

From years before the museum opened, concerns were raised regarding the provenance of the artifacts in the collection. In response to this issue, the museum appointed David Trobisch, a European scholar, as director of the collection and charged him with addressing the concerns of critics.[24][31]

More recently, the founders of the museum were forced to relinquish thousands of artifacts because they were smuggled out of Iraq via the United Arab Emirates. Notably Hobby Lobby neglected to confirm where the artifacts had been stored. Hobby Lobby was forced to relinquish 5,500 artifacts and to pay a $3 million settlement.[32][33] The Justice Department discussed archaeological looting in Iraq:

In October 2010, an expert on cultural property law retained by Hobby Lobby warned the company that the acquisition of cultural property likely from Iraq, including cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals, carries a risk that such objects may have been looted from archaeological sites in Iraq. The expert also advised Hobby Lobby to review its collection of antiquities for any objects of Iraqi origin and to verify that their country of origin was properly declared at the time of importation into the United States. The expert warned Hobby Lobby that an improper declaration of country of origin for cultural property could lead to seizure and forfeiture of the artifacts by CBP U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The museum responded by noting that they are a separate organization which "was not a party to either the investigation or the settlement." The museum says they voluntarily "adhere to the current Association of Art Museum Directors' standards on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art, as well as guidelines set forth by the American Alliance of Museums" and, further, that "none of the artifacts identified in the settlement are part of the Museum's collection, nor have they ever been."[34]

Dead Sea Scrolls authenticityEdit

The museum displays six parchment fragments that they claim are part of the Dead Sea Scrolls.[35] However, there has been doubt cast upon whether these are authentic.[36][37] Three of the fragments are suspected by researcher and expert Kipp Davis of being forgeries.[38]

AcademicsEdit

Scott Thumma, a dean and professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary, defended the museum in the artifacts controversy. "Many of the collections of our great national museums and universities are full of the very objects that Hobby Lobby is being fined for smuggling and are seldom required to return or pay compensation."[39]

Biblical scholars Joel Baden of Yale Divinity School and Candida Moss of University of Birmingham, who wrote the book Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby,[40] expressed concerns about the museum's mission saying, "They have misled the public at large by promoting a curriculum and a museum that tell only the story that the Greens want to tell, without acknowledging that scholars and experts have spent decades, indeed centuries, laboring to provide very different accounts of the Bible and its history."[41]

After spending many hours while writing the book with museum founder Steve Green and president Cary Summers, they concluded:

It’s not really a museum of the Bible, it’s a museum of American Protestantism. Their whole purpose is to show this country as a Christian country governed by Christian morality. (Moss)[42]

Their three-minute promo is fascinating demonstration of this problem. At least half of it is a reenactment of American history which has no bearing on the Bible—the signing of the Declaration of Independence, for example, or the Revolutionary War. The worry is that the museum portrays a story of the Bible that culminates in Protestantism and America. (Baden)[42]

John Fea, associate professor of American history at Messiah College, and chair of the history department, said, "It’s hard to see this as anything other than an attempt to try to bring Christian values in the Bible’s teachings as understood by evangelical protestants, like the Greens, into the center of American political life and American cultural life."[43]

OpeningEdit

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.[17]

The museum officially opened at a private dedication ceremony held during the next day.[44] When it opened to the public on Saturday, November 18, some exhibits were bustling with visitors, while others were nearly empty and the museum was far from capacity. Museum officials said that they would not publicly release an attendance count.[45]

Board and leadershipEdit

GalleryEdit

Museum of the Bible
Detail of museum plaque 
Front entrance 
Street level view 
Exterior wall 

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Museum of the Bible". www.museumofthebible.org. Archived from the original on 2017-10-18. 
  2. ^ "Museum — Main site". Museum of the Bible. Archived from the original on 12 May 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
  3. ^ "Collections". 
  4. ^ a b c d Unruh, Bob (27 Aug 2016). "Bible Museum to let Bible 'speak for itself'". WND.com. Archived from the original on 2016-10-25. Retrieved 25 Oct 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "The real Museum of the Bible". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on 2016-05-04. Retrieved 2016-05-03. 
  6. ^ "Questions swirl around Museum of the Bible before grand opening". NBC News. Archived from the original on 2017-11-17. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  7. ^ Moss, Candida; Baden, Joel S. (October 15, 2017). "Just What Is the Museum of the Bible Trying to Do?". POLITICO Magazine. Archived from the original on 2017-11-18. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  8. ^ "The Museum of the Bible opens in Washington, DC". The Economist. November 17, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-11-17. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  9. ^ Stracqualursi, Veronica (November 18, 2017). "Museum of the Bible faces revelations, controversy as it opens". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2017-11-18. Retrieved 2017-11-18. 
  10. ^ a b Kennicott, Philip (November 15, 2017). "Perspective | The new Bible museum tells a clear, powerful story. And it could change the museum business". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-11-16. Retrieved 2017-11-16. 
  11. ^ Banks, Adelle M. (July 10, 2012). "Bible museum planned for Washington, D.C". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  12. ^ Sernovitz, Daniel (July 20, 2012). "Museum makes a divine acquisition". Washington Business Journal. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  13. ^ DPA (13 February 2015). "Private Bible museum to be built in heart of Washington, D.C". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 27 May 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Cooper, Rebecca (12 February 2015). "Here's the Museum of the Bible's $400M plan for the former Washington Design Center". Washington Business Journal. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Parker, Loanne (28 March 2014). "Which Museums Show Real Promise?". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h "Construction begins on 430,000-square-foot Museum of the Bible". University of Leicester. 13 Feb 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-11-22. Retrieved 21 Nov 2016. 
  17. ^ a b Boorstein, Michelle (2017-11-15). "D.C.'s new Bible museum says it wants to avoid politics. But its opening gala is at the Trump hotel". Acts of Faith. The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-11-18.  Archived 2017-11-20 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ a b O'Connell, Jonathan (12 February 2015). "Even non-believers may want to visit the $400 million Museum of the Bible". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  19. ^ "Green family Bible museum closer to opening". Baptist Press. 7 March 2014. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  20. ^ Boorstein, Michelle (12 September 2014). "Hobby Lobby's Steve Green has big plans for his Bible museum in Washington". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  21. ^ "Jerry Pattengale, Ph. D". Museum of the Bible. Archived from the original on 19 April 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Porter, Kevin (21 Aug 2016). "Behind-the-scenes tour of Museum of the Bible: 5,000 lb Genesis bronze door, electronic Biblical art ceiling". Christian Post. Archived from the original on 2016-10-25. Retrieved 25 Oct 2016. 
  23. ^ "Museum of the Bible holds "topping out" celebration for D.C. building". NRB.com. September 22, 2016. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016. Retrieved 21 Nov 2016. 
  24. ^ a b Charney, Noah (4 September 2015). "Critics call it evangelical propaganda. Can the Museum of the Bible convert them?". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  25. ^ Pruitt, Sarah (11 Oct 2016). "Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls come to light". history.com. Archived from the original on 2016-11-16. Retrieved 21 Nov 2016. 
  26. ^ Porter, Kevin (7 Nov 2016). "Museum of the Bible to display historic 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 2016-11-22. Retrieved 21 Nov 2016. 
  27. ^ Mitchell, Andre (19 Aug 2016). "Bible museum in U.S. capital gets Liberty Bell replica as its first display". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on 2016-11-22. Retrieved 21 Nov 2016. 
  28. ^ a b Sheir, Rebecca. "D.C. Bible Museum Will Be Immersive Experience, Organizers Say". NPR. Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  29. ^ "Museum of the Bible Gives Preview in NYC". The Jewish Voice. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  30. ^ Sidman, Jessica (3 Nov 2016). "Equinox owners will open an Israeli street food cafe in the Museum of the Bible". Washingtonian. Archived from the original on 2016-11-22. Retrieved 21 Nov 2016. 
  31. ^ a b c Charney, Noah (4 Sep 2015). "Critics call it evangelical propaganda. Can the Museum of the Bible convert them?". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-02-22. Retrieved 20 Dec 2016. 
  32. ^ "United States Files Civil Action To Forfeit Thousands Of Ancient Iraqi Artifacts Imported By Hobby Lobby". www.justice.gov. Archived from the original on 2017-07-05. Retrieved 2017-07-06. 
  33. ^ Moss, Candida (26 Oct 2015). "Feds Investigate Hobby Lobby Boss for Illicit Artifacts". Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 2016-12-21. Retrieved 20 Dec 2016. 
  34. ^ Chandler, Diana (July 6, 2017). "Hobby Lobby to forfeit Bible artifacts, pay $3M fine". Baptist Press. Archived from the original on 2017-07-20. 
  35. ^ Dead Sea Scrolls fragments in the Museum collection. 2016. ISBN 9789004321489. Archived from the original on 2017-11-20. 
  36. ^ Burke, Daniel (November 17, 2017). "Mystery at the new Bible museum: Are its Dead Sea Scrolls fake?". CNN. Archived from the original on 2017-11-17. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  37. ^ Greshko, Michael (November 17, 2017). "Forgeries May Hide in Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scrolls". Archived from the original on 2017-11-18. Retrieved 2017-11-18. 
  38. ^ "$500m 'Museum of the Bible' opens in Washington DC". The Week UK. Archived from the original on 2017-11-17. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  39. ^ "Despite smuggled antiquities purchase, some say criticism of Bible museum is unfair". Religion News Service. Archived from the original on 2017-08-11. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  40. ^ Moss, Candida; Baden, Joel S. (October 15, 2017). "Just What Is the Museum of the Bible Trying to Do?". POLITICO Magazine. Archived from the original on 2017-11-18. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  41. ^ Moss, Candida R.; Baden, Joel S. (2017-09-22). Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9781400888313. Archived from the original on 2017-11-20. 
  42. ^ a b Haber, Gordon (November 8, 2017). "Investigating the Hobby Lobby Family: An Interview with Candida Moss and Joel S. Baden". Religion & Politics. Archived from the original on 2017-11-18. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  43. ^ Block, Deborah (November 17, 2017). "Controversial Bible Museum to Open in Washington". VOA. Archived from the original on 2017-11-19. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  44. ^ Boorstein, Michelle (2018-11-17). "D.C. officially gets a new major Bible museum — and prayers at its dedication for evangelization". Acts of Faith. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-11-20.  Archived 2017-11-20 at the Wayback Machine.
  45. ^ McGlone, Peggy; Contrera, Jessica; McCarthy, Ellen; Zauzmer, Julie (2018-11-18). "'I had to be there': The Museum of the Bible opens in the nation's capital". Acts of Faith. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-11-20.  Archived 2017-11-20 at the Wayback Machine.
  46. ^ "Leadership". www.museumofthebible.org. Archived from the original on 2017-11-19. Retrieved 2017-11-18. 

External linksEdit