There are already eight museums in the U.S. that are focused on the Bible and its stories, and soon there will be a ninth, located in Washington, D.C. According to David Greenbaum, vice president of SmithGroupJJR, the new 430,000-square-foot museum will be the biggest museum in the nation dedicated to the Bible once it opens in November 2017.
The last time Curbed DC toured the construction site, the building was still gutted, and the floors were being removed. Now, it’s easier to see what the vision for the space will be with the walls placed, the plastering being executed, and the two-story, zinc-and-glass volume shaped like an ark almost complete. The entire structure will be roughly 12 stories high, but will only feature eight levels, two of which will be underground.
Adjacent to the museum, there will be a 30,000-square-foot addition installed on the top of the Washington Office Center for offices, classrooms, and residences for visiting scholars. While connected to the museum, this section of the museum will be closed off to the public.
On the facade of the building, two different colors of brick will be used, handmade in Denmark. This difference in colors are meant to refer to palimpsest, which is when writing is done on a manuscript overtop the traces of writing previously done.
In the entrance, a roughly 40-foot-high door will be constructed with milled brass panels meant to reflect the typeface of the Gutenberg Bible along with stained glass with a design depicting parts of the manuscript.
Originally, the 1923-built building served as a refrigeration warehouse with trains running through it. By utilizing the space where the trains used to enter, the developer is able to create an expansive main hall with sky high ceilings. This hall will eventually feature a 150-foot-long LED screen on the ceiling. Beside the main hall, there will be a museum shop and a security area with technology like X-rays and magnetometers.
On the second level, visitors will be able to look down on the main level. Eventually, a frosted glass rail will be installed in place of the wooden boards currently there. The level will also house a coffee shop and Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals. This floor will also focus on how the Bible has impacted subjects like fashion, sports, and music.
The third floor will focus on the narratives of the Bible. In the above photograph, there is a steam machine that will be used to create a "burning bush." There will also be a New Testament Theater and an Old Testament Theater.
The third floor will also have a recreation of a village in Nazareth. The above photograph shows the space that will hold a synagogue.
On the fourth floor, it will focus on the history of the Bible.
The fifth floor offers a balcony with views of the National Building Museum and U.S. Capitol. This space will house a roughly 500-seat performance hall, 100-seat lecture hall, classrooms, and offices.
In the above photograph, viewers can see the space that will eventually house the performance hall.
To get to the restaurant, garden, and 500-seat ballroom on the sixth floor, visitors will have to use a glass walkway. The ballroom will be known as "The Gathering Room."
Greenbaum was unable to disclose which chef will head the new restaurant in the Museum of the Bible, but did say that he or she is a "significant chef" in Washington, D.C. The restaurant will serve foods found in the Bible. No alcohol will be served, but there will be mocktails.
By November 2016, the developer will begin installing the approximately 40,000 Biblical artifacts collected by the President of Hobby Lobby Steve Green into the museum. The entrance of the museum is on 4th and D streets SW, a location only blocks away from other Washington, D.C. landmarks like the National Building Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian.