WASHINGTON — The new Billy Graham exhibit at the Museum of the Bible officially opened on Sunday, giving the public access to personal artifacts from "America's preacher" and his legendary ministry.
Titled "Pilgrim Preacher: Billy Graham, the Bible, and the Challenges of the Modern World," the new exhibit features dozens of items that have been saved throughout Graham's six decades of ministry to bring fans closer to the iconic evangelist even after his death in February.
As the temporary exhibit will last until Jan. 27, 2019, many of the items are on loan either through the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, or through the generosity of private collectors.
The following pages — in no certain order — feature 10 highlights from the new exhibit.
1. Parents' Bibles
As the exhibit has somewhat of a chronological flow to it, one of the first items patrons will encounter when visiting the exhibit are Bibles that were given by Graham to his mother, Morrow, and his father, William Franklin Sr.
According to the museum, the Grahams owned a dairy farm, were active in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and introduced their children to the Bible at an early age.
While the Bible that Graham gave his mother was in too poor of a condition to keep opened inside the display case, the Scofield Reference Bible Graham gave his father is opened to an inscription that reads: "To Daddy on Father's Day 1953 with love and affection - Billy."
"There is a nice note inside [the mother's Bible] but it is just in such a condition that we didn't feel comfortable opening it up," associate curator Daved Anthony Schmidt told The Christian Post.
2. Graham's class notebooks
Two of Graham's class notebooks from when he attended Wheaton College in Illinois and graduated with a degree in anthropology are also displayed.
The notebooks are believed to have been used by Graham between the years of 1940 and 1943.
Both are on loan from the Billy Graham Library.
3. Yankee Stadium program
One the most famous moments of Graham's evangelistic career was his New York campaign of 1957.
On display in the exhibit is a souvenir program from Graham's Yankee Stadium crusade on July 20, 1957. The program is on loan to the museum courtesy of a California-based collector named Dr. Andrew Stimer.
4. Graham's personal New Testament
On display at the front of the exhibit on its own pedestal is Graham's personal copy of the New Testament that was published in 1959 and translated by J.B. Phillips.
The book also includes notes that were handwritten by Graham.
On loan from the Billy Graham Library, the book was already on display in the museum's "impact of the Bible" exhibit on the second floor prior to being moved up to the fifth floor to serve as one of the highlights of the temporary exhibit.
5. Graham's boots
According to the museum, Graham's stance against communism led him to support the United States' war against communist North Korea in the early 1950s.
Showcased in the exhibit are the combat boots that Graham wore when he traveled to Korea to preach to U.S. soldiers in 1952.
Following his return to the U.S. from Korea, Graham published a diary of his Korea trip, titled "I Saw Your Sons at War." According to the museum, he published the diary to "assure readers of the American cause."
6. Graham's personal journal
Another gem in the collection is Graham's personal notebook from his Africa crusade of 1960.
Schmidt told CP that Graham wrote mostly about itinerary-related matters in the notebook but did go into some detail about what crowds were like, what locals were like and the people he met with during the trip.
"That is another special thing to have because it is not something that he would have used publicly," Schmidt said. "That is more of a private thing he was writing."
7. Signed photo of Graham and Martin Luther King Jr.
One of the more out-of-the-ordinary components to the exhibit is a signed picture of Graham with civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. that was loaned to the museum by a private collector.
Schmidt told CP that King and Graham had a "complicated friendship."
Although Graham began integrating his revivals before the Supreme Court's ruling in 1954 to integrate public school systems nationwide, Schmidt noted that Graham didn't do so consistently and would sometimes "bow down to the pressure of the organizers."
"He knew King and invited him to come speak during the the New York Crusade in 1957," Schmidt said. "They had a complicated friendship. By the early 1960s, Graham began to criticize [King's] political activism. I think it's the fact that [Graham] didn't call for change quicker using laws. He believed that the best way to combat racism — since racism was a sin — was to change somebody's heart and it would grow from there. I think by the end of his life, Graham realized that something more comprehensive had to take place."
One of Schmidt's favorite artifacts in the exhibit is the Smith-Corona typewriter that was used by Graham's personal assistant, Stephanie Wills, to transcribe many of Graham's sermons.
Wills worked for over 45 years as Graham's assistant. According to Schmidt, Wills was just one of the many women who were pivotal to the success of Graham's preaching career.
"With that case I wanted to highlight how Graham was part of a team. It wasn't just him," Schmidt explained. "He wasn't a one-man show. He had all these supporting characters, including a lot of women like Stephanie Wills. She is still alive today."
9. Graham's sermon notes
The exhibit also includes two sets of Graham's own sermon notes.
The first set of notes featured in the exhibit are from Graham's 1973 South Korea Crusade, where over 1 million people came to hear him preach on the last day of the five-day revival. Although the crusade lasted less than a week, Graham preached to over 3 million people during that time.
Toward the tail end of the exhibit are sermon notes from Graham's last crusade, which took place in 2005 at New York City's Flushing Meadows.
"What is special to me and I am glad we got them is his sermon notes from his last crusade," Schmidt said. "It is a good way to close out the exhibit, by having those in that last case."
The largest artifacts on display in the exhibit are two pulpits that Graham preached from behind.
The first pulpit was the one that Graham used in 1948 when he traveled to Modesto, California, to hold his first citywide crusade. The pulpit was built by C.R. Griggs, the grandfather of Graham's longtime songleader Cliff Barrows, according to the museum. The pulpit was gifted to the Billy Graham Library by Barrows in 1998.
The second and much larger pulpit was the one that was used by Graham in the final day of his evangelism ministry. According to Schmidt, the pulpit was designed so that Graham could be semi-sitting while giving his sermons later in his life. The pulpit was built around 2000 or 2001 and was used by Graham up until his retirement in 2005.
"I love the pulpits. We are talking about Billy Graham — a preacher, not just an icon or celebrity," Schmidt said. "The fact that we have the things that he preached from behind, I am proud of that."