UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
An artist’s rendering of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Flanking the entrance are 12-metre-tall bronze panels recreating the printing bed of the first page of Genesis from the Gutenberg Bible. Artist rendering courtesy of the Museum of the Bible

New museum for an old story

Washington, D.C., has no shortage of museums. But its latest addition aims to stand out. Opening this month, the new Museum of the Bible has an ambitious goal: to be the most technologically advanced museum in the world.

By Sheima Benembarek


Ancient texts, modern tech


Spanning 40,000 square metres, the eight-storey building boasts three main exhibit floors dedicated to the Bible’s history, narrative and impact, as well as a rooftop biblical garden with vegetation indigenous to Israel.

An estimated $42 million has been poured into the museum’s technology alone. The grand lobby’s expansive LED ceiling screen bears witness to this, as does the immersive panoramic performance theatre, customized digital guides and the “flyboard” — a rotating stage that takes visitors on a virtual reality tour of Washington, highlighting biblical references in the city.


Collection controversy

Steve Green, president of the arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby, founded the $500-million museum to showcase his family’s vast collection of biblical relics and make the Good Book more accessible to the world. Green, an evangelical Christian, is not without controversy. Most recently, his company was fined $3 million for importing 5,500 artifacts that had been smuggled out of Iraq. (None of the artifacts were intended for the museum, a press release stated.) Hobby Lobby also made headlines for its Supreme Court victory on health insurance. Citing religious objections, the company won the right to deny its employees the full range of contraceptive coverage mandated under the Affordable Care Act.


Engage, not proselytize

The controversies have raised questions about the museum for some. Will there be a literal interpretation of the Bible and religious promotion? “Of course not,” says Tony Zeiss, the museum’s executive director. “We present the Bible as the Bible is. We don’t interpret anything. We are not advocating any religion or any doctrine.”

The museum, which will offer free admission, is advertised as an innovative and scholarly organization with a vision to simply engage. Zeiss, who will be leading its daily operations, declares, “We let people get engaged, and then they can come to their own conclusions.” 





Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

Outrage is the new normal

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Profiles

October 2017

Fall from grace

by Justin Dallaire

Don Hume was a United Church minister nearing retirement. Then he tried crack cocaine.

Faith

September 2017

Yearning

by Jane Dawson

Restless longing is at the core of the human condition, urging us onward through life. What happens when it veers off course?

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Promotional Image