Hobby Lobby Tycoon to Build Bible Museum in Washington DC

The institution will bring Gutenberg Bible printing technology to the nation's capital.

A 2012 visitor to the Vatican at “Verbum Domini,” a traveling exhibition of the Green Collection of biblical artifacts, owned by Hobby Lobby president Steven Green, uses a replica of the Guttenberg printing press. Photo courtesy of the Vatican.

Hobby Lobby isn’t done in Washington: the craft store chain, the subject of the controversial recent Supreme Court ruling that “closely held” corporations can refuse to offer healthcare coverage for certain contraceptives on the basis of their religious beliefs, has plans to bring a Bible museum to Washington, DC, reports the New York Times.

If all goes according to plan, the museum will open in 2017, just two blocks from the National Mall, in the former Washington Design Museum building. Hobby Lobby president Steve Green bought the 400,000-square-foot property in 2012 for $50 million.

The museum will primarily house Green’s collection of historic Bibles and Torahs, which he has been amassing since 2009, spending more than $30 million. Among his holdings are a Torah from the Spanish Inquisition, a nearly complete Book of Psalms written on papyrus, and the earliest known bible in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke during his lifetime.

It all sounds okay until you realize there will also be “immersive environments” that inch dangerously close to the territory of those terrifying Creationist museums with animatronic dinosaurs hanging out with cavemen. (The museum’s chief operating officer, Cary Summers, was a consultant for the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.)

Verbum Domini,” a traveling exhibition featuring the Green collection that has appeared at the Vatican, includes, for example, a reenactment of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to his door. There are also replicas of London’s Westminster Abbey, where the King James Bible was written, and of the Caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered. The museum will portray the Bible’s seven day creation story.

“We’re not trying to convince anybody of anything,” Summers told the New Republic. “We’re simply presenting the facts.”

As you might expect, the evangelical Green is passionate about his new project. He’s called the Bible “a reliable historical document,” and is developing an educational program in conjunction with the museum that will “reintroduce this book to this nation.”

Initial estimates peg the cost for opening the new institution, which will include building a two-floor addition to the eight-story landmark Renaissance revival-style warehouse (pending approval from the city), at over $70 million—but once you’ve factored in the value of the 40,000 object collection, the Times claims, the venture’s real cost is closer to $800 million. Accordingly, a national fundraising drive is in the works.

The Green Collection is on view in “Passages: Treasures of the Bible,” in Springfield, Missouri, through January 3, 2015.

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