In a few years, families won't be limited to exploring presidential monuments or walking along the National Mall on vacations to Washington, D.C. They'll also have access to a new Bible museum, scheduled to open in 2017 just a few blocks away from some of America's most famous tourist attractions.
The project is sponsored by the family that owns Hobby Lobby. Its nonprofit organization, Museum of the Bible, also funds a traveling exhibit of biblical artifacts and a Bible curriculum for high school students.
"The development of a Bible museum has long been a dream of the Oklahoma-based Green family," The New York Times reported. The family patriarch spent the last five years acquiring a collection of ancient Torahs, papyri and Bibles likely worth "hundreds of millions of dollars."
Although plans for the museum's exhibits have not been released, the Times explained that "the traveling show of Mr. Green's collection offers some clues. It included theatrical experiences such as hologram re-creations of biblical scenes, re-enactments of 4th-century monks transcribing the Bible by candlelight and a multimedia 'Noah's ark experience.’ ”
Further clues can be found in the Bible exhibits already in operation. Check out these unique sites across the country, which range from scholarly to colorful:
1. Museum of Biblical Art, New York City
Although New York City's Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) is best known for its exhibitions of biblically inspired art, it also houses the American Bible Society's rare Bible collection. Almost 200 years in the making, the collection encompasses early Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the text and later translations. MOBIA often complements its exhibitions with installations of the books to describe the role of the Bible in Western culture and its influence on visual art.
2. Dunham Bible Museum, Houston
Houston Baptist University laid the groundwork for the Dunham Bible Museum in 1997 by purchasing a collection of Bibles and Christian books from an entrepreneur in Indiana. Seventeen years and several Bible donations later, the museum offers the opportunity for students and tourists alike to explore "the Bible's influence and importance in history, government, education, literature, law and culture."
3. Library of Congress Bible Collection, Washington, D.C.
Even casual biblical scholars should be excited to view this library's Gutenberg Bible, which is considered one of the world's most famous books. Although five other complete copies are held in U.S. libraries, the Library of Congress illustrates the book's significance by comparing its printed pages to one of the last handwritten Bibles.
"In the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, two monumental Bibles face each other as if in dialogue: one, the Giant Bible of Mainz, signifies the end of the handwritten book, and the other, the Gutenberg Bible, marks the beginning of the printed book and the explosion of knowledge and creativity it would engender," the exhibition's website explains.
4. Museum of Biblical Art, Dallas
Opened in 2013, the Charles C. Ryrie Library at Dallas' Museum of Biblical Art houses one of the most respected collections of biblical texts in America. After viewing the paintings and sculptures on display in this site's galleries, guests can enjoy the library's rotating display of notable Bibles. Featured pieces include a first edition of the King James Bible (1611) and the Wycliffe New Testament (1430.)
5. Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, D.C.
It should be clear that Washington, D.C., deserves more credit for its Bible-based tourist attractions. The Freer and Sackler Galleries, part of the Smithsonian Institute's National Museums of Asian Art, owns yet another impressive collection of biblical texts. Its holdings include the third-oldest Greek parchment manuscript of the Gospels and an early fifth-century Greek parchment containing the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua.
6. The Bible Museum, Goodyear, Arizona
Tucked away in an office of a Hampton Inn & Suites, Goodyear's Bible Museum is a hidden gem (emphasis on the hidden.) Free to the public and open 24 hours a day, the collection originated from the same entrepreneur who provided Bibles for the Dunham Bible Museum.
"Among the jewels in the museum's collection are fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a page from a Gutenberg Bible and original copies of the King James Version Bible from 1611," Arizona Central reported.
7. BibleWalk, Mansfield, Ohio
BibleWalk allows visitors to view Bibles up to 500 years old. But the collection of rare Bibles is far from the main attraction at this Ohio wax museum. "(BibleWalk) has over 300 wax figures in 70 religious scenes, and it was all built by the congregants of the adjacent nondenominational Diamond Hill Cathedral," Roadside America reported.
8. Treasuring the Word, Sevierville, Tennessee
This rare Bible and book museum uses its artifacts to tell the story of the Bible's progression into English translation. Operated by Treasuring the Word Ministries International, the museum is only one part of the organization's larger mission dedicated to "taking the whole counsel of God to the whole world." Like the Green family's Museum of the Bible, Treasuring the Word supports biblical scholars and provides Bible study tools.
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