Tourists visiting our nation's capital will have to squeeze in some time for one more attraction, now that the Museum of the Bible has opened its doors.
The enormous 430,000 square foot museum is only a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building, and just north of the National Mall, where the Smithsonian museum is located. The building is the pet project of billionaire Hobby Lobby executive Steve Green, who has spent $500 million of his own money to build the museum.
The museum advertises itself as nonsectarian, and welcoming to all faiths, as well as family-friendly. Admission is free, but donations are requested. Visitors will have to plan their time carefully to see all eight floors of the museum, which includes a restaurant, a ballroom, and a massive theater with a wraparound screen.
Green says that his museum, the world's largest devoted just to the Bible, takes "a journalistic view" of the holy book. "It's not about espousing our faith," he says, "we're inviting people to engage with this book, so we embrace all that will come and celebrate the Bible."
At the building's entrance there are a pair of 40-foot tall replicas of the Book of Genesis, and the exhibits inside are just as impressive. Ahead of the museum's opening this week, its giving the public a sneak peek of what they can expect to see during their visit.
The museum's three main exhibit floors will feature over 2,800 artifacts from around the world.
There are objects on loan from Israeli museums, as well as the British Museum and the Louvre. But along with educational sections showing how the Old Testament was created, the museum includes some flashier exhibits that will entertain guests. An interactive demonstration of the ten plagues features a glowing red Nile.
There's also a children's wing, where they are encouraged to "walk on water" using a high-tech aquatic display. But the most interesting exhibit may be "Jesus' World," a recreation of Nazareth during Jesus' time filled with actors in period costumes.
Visitors can also see a section of the Dead Sea Scrolls, learn about the Bible's impact on popular culture, and visit the "Impact of the Bible in America" exhibit. That section features a 3,200 pound recreation of the Liberty Bell so large that it had to be lowered into the building.
Tony Zeiss, the museum's executive director, says that the building tries "to avoid anything that's controversial," explaining that "we're not about evangelizing, we're about piquing people's curiosity."
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