The Most Technologically Advanced, Immersive Museum Coming Soon

Washington D.C.'s Museum of the Bible is just two blocks from the National Mall.
Washington D.C.'s Museum of the Bible is just two blocks from the National Mall. | (Photo credit: Smith Group JJR)

The most technologically advanced museum ever – the awesome, upcoming Museum of the Bible – will open later this year in Washington, just three short blocks from the Capitol Building and only steps from the Washington Mall.

The Museum will thoroughly enrich each visitor's experiences of the Bible, one of the most precious gifts of God to humankind. Recently, I had the privilege of visiting this amazing wonder in the making – which is being prepared for its grand opening – walking two miles through much of its spacious 430,000 square feet.

(l-r) Shannon Bennett, Director of Community Relations of Museum of the Bible; Paul de Vries, and Adam Byrd, a manager for Clark Construction during the hard-hat tour of the construction site of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
(l-r) Shannon Bennett, Director of Community Relations of Museum of the Bible; Paul de Vries, and Adam Byrd, a manager for Clark Construction during the hard-hat tour of the construction site of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. | (Courtesy of Paul de Vries)

Now, 150 workers labor on each of three shifts every day skillfully preparing the numerous pavilions of this multi-faceted museum of impressive spiritual, cultural and historical adventure. This November, the Museum will open to hundreds of thousands of curious visitors from every religious background, all nations, and each age and educational level. The Museum will help restore the Bible as a major and influential topic of daily conversation – in Washington, throughout the United States, and all around the world, too.

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When it opens, the Museum of the Bible will house perhaps the world's largest private collection of ancient Biblical texts and artifacts. Tens of thousands of items have been collected primarily by Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby and Chairman of the Museum's board – even though some 5,500 were very recently returned to Iraq in a settlement announced this week.

Treasured artifacts to be displayed include portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Torah scrolls that survived the Spanish Inquisition and the Nazi Holocaust. The Bibles personally owned and used by famous people – including Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley – are also included. Through an extraordinary partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority, additional artifacts will be displayed for periods of time, sponsored by Israel. The Bible itself records some of God's wonderful works through history – and the Museum of the Bible aptly reproduces this trait through its displays, too.

These precious ancient artifacts will be meaningfully displayed in the context of the most technologically advanced digital surroundings. Included are entire rooms whose whole walls and ceilings are digital screens that will accurately reproduce relevant historic or artistic venues – such as the Sistine Chapel – and then can be instantaneously changed to some other amazing representation. In other pavilions, some virtuous Biblical teachings are represented in virtual reality. Visitors using personalized digital guides will have access to additional information. Augmented reality will heighten visitors' attention and interest. The numerous interactive displays will be supremely enhanced by the most advanced technologies ever deployed in any museum!

From childhood we understood that museums should be about both fun and discovery. This amazing Museum of the Bible energizes fun and elevates personal discovery to the utmost degree. I cannot wait until November 17, 2017, when it is ready and open!

In an earlier Christian Post essay about the Museum of the Bible, I suggested that this unique Museum would significantly help to bring fun back into Bible engagement. Its numerous digital wonders will not only communicate the truths of the Bible, but also flame Godly excitement and interest in the Bible.

Who would think a visit to the Museum could be life-transforming? For those not otherwise familiar with the Bible, the Museum will help fan their interest and draw them into its influence. And for those of us who study the Bible daily, it will take us to another level of interest, knowledge and devotion.

During my recent walk-through the developing Museum, I saw that one of the Museum pavilions was nearly complete. It was a walk-in encounter with the Town of Nazareth. This pavilion provides an imaginative, long stretch of a main street during Jesus' Nazareth in Jesus' time. It includes houses and shops as well as olive trees and other well-researched realistic, time-appropriate features. Walking down Nazareth's main street will vividly aid visitors' awareness of where Jesus grew up and where he received instruction through Mary and Joseph, where he attended synagogue, where he read and studied the Scriptures, where he cultivated personal friends, and where he learned the skills of carpentry in Joseph's shop. For me, this experience of Nazareth of the 1st century was so remarkable and realistic that I almost hesitated to walk back into the 21st century!

The pavilion on the narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures was also thoroughly engrossing. Dramatic, eye-catching, memorable depictions of the Creation and the giving of the Decalogue and many other Biblical stores movingly engage visitors' attention. Everyone who comes will want to read or reread at least some of the great records of these events documented in the original Good Book.

Different floors house multiple pavilions that address especially three of the dimensions of the greatness of the Bible – (1) its impressive impacts on every dimension of life, (2) its unforgettable narratives, and (3) its own remarkable, documented history.

There is a whole floor devoted to revealing and celebrating the Bible's impact on the world. There is probably no dimension of human life anywhere on earth that is not measurably affected by the penetrating light of Scripture. Consider human rights, the arts, theater, movies, fashion, jewelry, music, poetry, short stories, novels, justice, compassion, architecture, cultural idioms, festivals, education, science, economies, governments, real history – including notably our American history – family, relationships, ethics, work, health, and everyday life. Always, the Bible is the text for wise change now as much as any time in the past.

Another entire floor celebrates the splendid, memorable narratives of the Bible. This floor includes the aforementioned intriguing life-sized street of Nazareth that any visitor can stroll through as well as the memorable, interactive depictions of the Creation, Cain and Able, Noah's Ark, the Burning Bush, the giving of the Decalogue, and many other stories from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. One can engage just the narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures or of the New Testament – or of both, depending on each visitor's interests and choices. Transformative narratives are a great treasure of the Bible, as I have noted before. One of the countless reasons that the Bible is the greatest book ever is that it includes the best and most compelling stories. And the Museum of the Bible will help make those precious stories come to life, even for the least imaginative visitor!

On another floor, the remarkable history of the Bible is featured. Here is where the huge collections of ancient artifacts especially matter. Here is where the active research partnerships of 60 universities around the world especially matter, too. Every artifact to be displayed has been carefully analyzed by the most trusted experts. The visitors' enhanced comprehension of the Bible's own history will inspire greater interest in the Bible itself – while it also inspires deeper confidence in the Bible as the ultimate, trustworthy book of truth and wisdom.

The Museum of the Bible is huge (430,000 square feet) and chock full of memorable, enriching experiences and tons of information. In fact, to browse the entire museum and to carefully read every inscription would take the average reader nine 8-hour days! Enlivening that veritable ocean of information are the very most technologically advanced immersive tools and displays of any museum ever. Visitors can answer a few questions for programing their personal digital guides that will help direct them to those areas of the Museum that fulfill their stated primary interests. Anyone's visits to the Museum will be targeted time especially well spent. All this will wonderfully serve the hands, heart, and head of each visitor who chooses to come, and to have fun, and to discover!

In our daily lives, no object is more deserving of our attention than the Bible. The Museum of the Bible will significantly deepen, enhance, and energize our knowledge, our wisdom, and our fun in our personal Bible discovery and engagement. Most of all, the Museum brings meaningful honor to the Bible's supreme Author. In the heart of our nation's capital, perhaps this is a substantial step toward America blessing God.

Dr. Paul de Vries is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, speaker and author. He is a specialist in Biblical hermeneutics and ethics and a life-long advocate of Biblical activism.

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