An extensive private collection of artefacts related to the Bible will soon have a permanent home minutes from the National Mall and Capitol in Washington, its sponsors said Thursday.
Steve and Jackie Green, owners of the arts and crafts store chain Hobby Lobby, are financing the 400-million-dollar museum to house their private collection.
Hobby Lobby became a buzzword in U.S. politics when the Supreme Court ruled last year that the privately held corporation could be exempted from paying for certain types of female contraception, otherwise required under the Affordable Care Act, because of the owners' religious beliefs. The ruling applied to so-called morning-after pills and intra-uterine devices.
The Oklahoma-based company argued these methods of birth control are abortifacients, disrupting implantation of fertilized egg cells, and violate their belief that human life begins at conception.
Green and his wife are Southern Baptists.
Their collection of 40,000 items includes old Bibles, Dead Sea scroll fragments, manuscripts, Torah scrolls and rare printed Bibles. Since they began collecting in 2009, they have sent some of the items on travelling exhibits.
The museum is to be housed in a historically protected warehouse, which was built in 1923 and will undergo extensive renovations.
"It's very exciting to see this project getting started," Green said at a ceremony Thursday, donning a reflective neon yellow construction vest and hard hat. "It's been a dream, and it is becoming a reality today."
Plants native to Holy Land
In addition to a rooftop garden with plants native to the "original Holy Land," the museum will provide visitors with a digital companion to act as their personal navigator as they move throughout the museum and explore exhibits.
The museum is meant to portray the Bible in a scholarly and educational way, covering both the Old and New testaments, Green said.
In addition to three permanent installations focusing on the impact, history and narrative of the Bible, the museum plans to rotate temporary exhibits every month.
Cary Summers, president of the Museum of the Bible, said the group plans to collaborate with Jewish organizations.
"We invite all people to come and learn about the book," Green said. "It's a book that's had a huge impact. It's been controversial, it's been loved, it's been hated, and we just think people ought to know about it."
The museum will be "a landmark the neighborhood can be proud of, and a wonderful addition to the museum scene," Summers said.
The museum, two blocks from the National Mall and three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, is expected to open in November 2017.
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