Religious attractions and museums around the country strive to bring the Bible to life, whether visitors are standing in front of the oldest known copy of Romans 5:1, which states that Christians “are justified by faith,” or listening to actors portray Jesus’ disciples after they encounter him on the road to Emmaus. Some focus on education, and others highlight entertainment; but they all exist to share the Bible and stories from its pages.
Here are some of the new developments at top faith-based destinations and attractions across the country.
Museum of the Bible
When the Museum of the Bible opens in November 2017 in Washington, it will interpret one of the oldest texts on earth using some of the most modern technology: $42 million worth, to be exact.
“We’ll be on the cutting edge in innovating what a modern museum experience is,” said Steven Bickley, the museum’s vice president of marketing.
Above visitors’ heads in the lobby, a 150-foot LED screen will span the ceiling where the museum can display anything its staff decides on, such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, nature scenes or illuminated manuscripts. Hand-held devices like smartphones will offer a map of the museum’s interior, like GPS for exhibits and galleries. Using the devices, guests can choose to hear about exhibits from different perspectives — for example, from a Jewish, Catholic or Protestant perspective — or opt for a “40,000-foot explanation or go superdeep” to gain scholar-level understanding, Bickley said. In the Bible Now area, visitors can see in real time all the Bible engagement taking place around the world through YouVersion’s Bible app.
The museum’s intent is for people of all types and backgrounds to engage with the Bible through its history, narrative and impact, and those are the museum’s three main exhibit floors. More than 500 biblical texts and artifacts will be displayed on the History floor. The Impact floor will have approximately 20 vignettes exploring how the Bible has affected everything from health care to fashion, criminal justice to charities. People who have designed for Disney and Universal Studios are doing the Narrative floor. Two more central exhibit floors will include the long-term international libraries and long-term international museum galleries.
A 500-person theater will showcase various performances and productions, and 40-foot-tall bronze doors will lead to the rooftop biblical garden.
Since opening in July, the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky, has been flooded with visitors: 400,000 of them in the first three months alone. Those numbers are almost as big as the ark itself, which is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, all built according to the dimensions given in the Bible.
With the opening of the Ark Encounter near Answers in Genesis’ other attraction, the Creation Museum, “this region has really become the destination rather than part of an itinerary,” said Eddie Lutz, sales and promotions representative at the Ark Encounter.
When motorcoach groups arrive, a park guide boards the bus, which then drives a one-mile stretch and crests a hill, giving guests their first glimpse of the world’s largest timber-frame structure.
“To me, that’s the highlight of the day because I can hear the gasps on the bus,” Lutz said.
Inside, visitors will find animal figures in their pens and learn about how they were likely cared for. Guests can also visit an imagining of Noah and his family’s living quarters, “a beautiful area” where designers included personal touches among the couples’ possessions. One of the most popular exhibits is the “amazingly lifelike” animatronic Noah, who will answer any of 14 questions visitors key in on a touch-screen monitor.
Outside, at the Ararat Ridge Zoo, guests can ride a donkey or a camel, and visit animals in the petting zoo. Officials are already expanding the zoo and just opened an animal encounter area inside the ark. Emzara’s Kitchen is a 1,500-seat restaurant “that’s an exhibit in and of itself,” Lutz said. The dining area is filled with taxidermy, but the best seat in the house is on the second-story deck, where diners have “the bow of the ark coming right at you,” he said.