NASHVILLE — The president of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., revealed that the imam of a local mosque was so moved while exploring the exhibits with his family that he urged his Muslim friends to visit the museum.
During the National Religious Broadcasters' International Christian Media Convention last week in Nashville, Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers said he's consistently surprised by the "mix of people" that come to visit the museum, which opened in November.
"Who's coming to the museum? The world is coming in. It's not all evangelical Christians, but people from all over the world," he said, adding that the majority of visitors are simply there to "learn something" about the Bible.
"We had one of the imams from one of the mosques in Washington come and spend three hours [at the museum]; he brought his wife and five daughters," Summers shared. "He saw me a week later and he told me that he had been there, which I knew, and I said, 'What did you think?' And he said, 'I'm telling you, every Muslim, they should come to this museum.'"
Summers revealed that since its opening, the museum has welcomed more than 340,000 visitors from a diverse set of religious, geographical and cultural backgrounds.
"I got a note the other day from a person and she said, 'While we were there, on our right side were Orthodox Jews walking with us, and on our left side was confessing agnostics. And they were all loving the museum,'" Summers recalled.
Three weeks after guests leave the museum, they are sent a survey, which asks them, "How did the Bible Museum make you feel?"
"The number one response that we get is, 'It gives me hope,'" Summers said. "To have that as your number one response, it shows that people are looking for something today, and they're finding it in the Bible."
The museum, which would require 72 hours to view in its entirety, includes 430,000 square feet of historical artifacts, interactive displays, and extensive information about the Bible. Key attractions include a replica of the Gutenberg Press, 400 historical artifacts that show how the Bible has changed over time, first editions of the King James Bible, fragments of the Dead Sea Scroll, and an interactive Nazareth village. It also features the rocker Elvis Presley's Bible, the world's biggest private collection of Torahs, and walk-through scenes of biblical stories such as Noah's flood.
Additionally, the museum includes a restaurant that serves "foods of the Bible" and a rooftop garden with plant varieties that are mentioned in the Bible.
Located blocks from the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., the museum does not operate with any government funding, yet opens its doors to the public for free.
"The Bible will tear down walls for us," Summers said.
Summers, Steve Green, chairman of the board for Museum of the Bible, and his wife, Jackie, were interviewed by NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, who asked the Greens to identify their favorite "new thing" about the museum.
Steve Green pointed to the Bible Now portion of the museum, which uses the latest technology to offer visitors the opportunity to record a clip about how the Bible worked in their own hearts and lives.
Visitors can "leave it for posterity. It lets your kids or grandkids come in and hear what the Bible means to you," he said. "It talks about how the Bible is impacting you now."
Jackie Green shared that her favorite display is Elizabeth de Bohun's book of psalter, published in the 14th century. After doing some research, Green discovered de Bohun is her 21st great-grandmother.
"It's the most beautifully illuminated item I think in the collection," she said, adding that the display is "special" to her.
Steve Green said that while there were "struggles and challenges" throughout the process of building the museum, God has clearly been in the midst of the entire operation.
"You just knew that this was God's project, and we just got to be part of it," he said.
More information about the Museum of the Bible is available at museumofthebible.org.