Museum of the Bible visitors top half a million in first six months

Museum of the Bible entrance in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 1, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) — The Good Book is shaping up to be a good draw on the crowded landscape of museums in the nation’s capital.

The Museum of the Bible, the newest tourist attraction near the National Mall, has drawn 565,000 visitors since it opened six months ago, according to museum figures released Thursday (May 17).

While that’s less than half as many as visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in its first six months, it’s enough to assure organizers that a robust audience is hungry for Bible-related exhibits.

“We are pleased that more than half a million people have walked through the iconic Gutenberg Gates since last November to experience the largest museum dedicated to the Bible,” said Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers. “As we enter the peak of tour season, we look forward to welcoming new and returning guests to engage with the history, narrative and impact of the most influential book ever written.”

By comparison, other museums have had a smaller draw in their first half-year. The Broad, a new contemporary art museum in Los Angeles, attracted fewer than 500,000 within six months of its 2015 opening.

A door opens to the “Exodus” section inside the Museum of the Bible, on Oct. 30, 2017, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

More than 1,700 groups have visited the high-tech Museum of the Bible, which sits two blocks from the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol, art galleries and other museums. Officials said visitors travel an average of 260 miles to the 430,000-square-foot museum.

RELATED: In the Capitol’s shadow, Museum of the Bible readies for opening

The museum cost $500 million and took three years to build. Co-founded by Steve Green, the president of the Hobby Lobby craft store business, it opened with 1,600 items in its permanent collection, about three-quarters of which are Bibles and biblical manuscripts.

In the months before it opened, Museum of the Bible officials distanced themselves from a Hobby Lobby settlement in which the company agreed to return 5,500 artifacts illegally imported from Iraq and to pay the Justice Department a $3 million fine. Museum officials had to ask partners to loan them items to complete an exhibit.

The museum has free admission to visitors, who reserve timed-entry passes or walk up to its doors, but it suggests a donation of $15 per person.

In August, the Museum of the Bible will sponsor a temporary exhibit, titled “Pilgrim Preacher: Billy Graham, the Bible and the Challenges of the Modern World,” about the evangelist who died in February.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • I wonder how the museum treats the evolution/creationism debates stemming from interpretations of Genesis.

  • It is interesting to have a museum dedicated to a book. Maybe there will be a Harry Potter “museum” some day. I bet it would get more visitors…

  • In fact, there are already HP exhibitions making the rounds of many museums across the world, not to mention special studio tours.

  • To learn about the Bible from a museum funded and controlled by a fundamentalist Evangelical family is like learning about the Koran from Islamists.

    Christian is to fundamentalist Evangelical as Muslim is to fundamentalist Islamist.

  • Now….if only they would actually read it for themselves. Much easier allowing a man behind a pulpit to ‘think’ for themselves.

  • The Greens need to visit Kentucky and show Ken Ham how to turn a profit from his Ark Park. He’s falling well short of his promised goal.
    We gave him millions in tax breaks, we’d like a return on our investment…like, soon.

  • Nice bricks you’re throwing.

    Did they come from the last building you tore down?

  • I have not and will not visit it.
    Anyone who visits and gives the donation is supporting Christian Nationalism.
    I would consider this as evil as supporting ISIS or Islamic Nationalism.

  • It appears to be a fairly serious and professional presentation on the Bible as a major influence in the history of mankind.

    In examining its website and catalog I see nothing “supporting Christian Nationalism”.

    But, since you have not actually visited it, I take it your carping was just emotional venting or doing what all the other kids do.

  • The Green family finances the movement and politicians that support the Christian Nationalist Movement.
    Here is a politico article on the slant of the presentation”

    From the Washington Post:
    In the end, Moss and Baden conclude, the Greens are engaged in a project of “subtle religious indoctrination,” carried out without “the essential task of critical thinking.”

  • I was under the impression the article was about the Museum, not the Green family.

    Speaking of slants, your Politico article was written BEFORE the Museum opened.

    Your Washington Post article was written by Sarah Posner, a young Jewish woman whose specialty is “investigative reporting”, aka muckraking, conservative Christians (see her book “God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters”) for the Washington Post, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and other left-of-center publications.

    She describes zero contact with the Museum, which makes sense since it had not opened, and simply recaps how much other people dislike the Green family.

    Great stuff if you just want to know who to hate.

  • It is not necessary to “muckrake” the Christian Nationalist movement. You just need to describe its actions and intentions. We don’t need to know who to hate, just which ideology or world view and their effects to hate.

  • Note that the gun supporter, deluded Christian nutcase, bigot, and NRA shill presenting himself in this thread as “Bob Arnzen” variously and dishonestly uses a variety of names on RNS such as Bob Arnzen, José Carioca, and others. However, there is actually no real Bob Arnzen, and there is no real José Carioca.

    It is recommended that you refer to him and reply to him stating his name as “Bobosé”, “BobbyJoe”, or just “snowflake”.

    The José Carioca account for this present post is used as a parody of “Bob Arnzen”.

  • The question, of course, was how “Anyone who visits and gives the donation is supporting Christian Nationalism”, not whether the Green family are Christian Nationalists (and just what constitutes a “Christian Nationalist” is worthy of discussion by itself).

    It appears that:

    a – the Museum itself is not an advertisement or tout for “Christian Nationalism”

    b – donations support the Museum

    Your dislike of the Greens and the “Christian Nationalist movement”, whatever that might be, are noted.

  • It is sad that you persist in creating new fake accounts

    after Disqus closes them one at a time for violating the prohibition against “Impersonation — misrepresents themselves as someone else”. Eventually Disqus will block your url and you’ll have to go to a public library to post.

    There is no Ben in Oakland, there is no Pope Hilarius II, there is no Moderator DC, there is no NoMoreBadTown, there is no
    PsiCop, and there is no Kangaroo52 because there is no ban on using pen names to avoid personal harassment, which is also a violation of Disqus terms of use.

    If you were able to carry on an actual discussion based on facts and reason we would not be reading your post, which makes clear who the deluded nutcase, bigot, etc. really is.

  • Christian Nationalists intend to turn the USA into what would essentially be a theocracy. They would like to make Trump’s lie, “since our blood is red we all have the same values”, true. They are extending this to foreign policy including the support of Israel, alignment with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. They advocate war with Islam and all of the enemies of Israel to hasten the “End Times”. Many now consider Trump appointed by God. Since they are counting on the “End Times” they consider acting against Global Warming and other environmental dangers of no value. All is part of God’s plan.

    This ideology is promoted by, among others, the Green family billions. To support their museum is to aid their project.

    For one description of the Christian Nationals:

  • Since I do not subscribe to what I consider your zany views on the Establishment Clause or your Chicken Little views on “Christian Nationalism”, I consider your comments sour grapes and silliness unrelated to the Museum, which appears to be a serious effort unrelated to your concerns.

  • It looks like a hit a sore spot. I would guess you are a Christian Nationalist so of course you must support the museum. I don’t think we need to continue this conversation.

  • No, my only sore spot is that conflating the Green and the Museum hijacks the discussion and falsifies your post.

    You’re right, if you can’t hold a conversation without injecting your favorite fairy tales, we don’t need to continue.