The Guardian

Inside the sprawling, controversial $500m Museum of the Bible

The museum conceived by the billionaire president of Hobby Lobby and set to open next month has attracted scepticism over its ideological mission
Depictions of Biblical references in contemporary media are pictured at the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC. Photograph: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

It is a museum of biblical proportions – and it is stirring controversies to match.

Opening next month in Washington, the Museum of the Bible cost half a billion dollars to build, spans 430,000 sq ft over eight floors and claims to be the most hi-tech museum in the world. Reading every placard, seeing every artifact and experiencing every activity would take an estimated 72 hours.

But while it is not the monument to creationism that some liberals feared, the sprawling museum has attracted scepticism over both its ideological mission and the provenance of its collection. It is the brainchild of evangelical Christian Steve Green, the billionaire president of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain that won a supreme court case allowing companies with religious objections to opt out of contraceptive coverage under Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

Green, who since 2009 has amassed a vast collection of biblical texts and artifacts, is making a big statement with the museum’s location: two blocks south of the National Mall, home to the US Capitol and Smithsonian Institution museums – including the National Museum of Natural History, which has exhibits – and could hardly be closer to the centre of power.

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