The Museum of the Bible is huge; the Museum cost over $500 Million to build it and many people donated a lot of financial gifts to have this multi-sensory museum built. The museum is six, entrancing stories of architectural beauty. My husband and I took our 7 year old and our 4 year old for a family outing.
We went to Saturday Vigil Mass so that we could have our Sunday morning free to tour the Museum. I’m glad that it worked out- having obtained our timed-entry tickets online the week before, we arrived before the crowd. The Museum of the Bible does not charge an entry fee; instead, they ask for donations. We arrived at 10:30am. After going through the high-tech security, we found the coat check. Traveling with young children, one must always know where the restrooms are! We found the restrooms by the coat check and near all of the elevators. Speaking of which, the elevators alone deserve a shout-out; each elevator is equipped with three screens that change landscape views of various locations in Egypt, Israel, etc. If this much detail was put into the elevators, then imagine the detail for the rest of the Museum!
We spent 4 hours in the Museum and only viewed floors 3, 4 and the Manna Restaurant. One thing that initially struck me is the peace as we entered the building. Unlike most museums in DC, the Museum of the Bible is so new that the public isn’t an “expert” on it, yet. I looked at the faces of my children and the other patrons to find expressions of awe and wonder. My daughter was especially entranced with the ceiling of the main entrance.
There is a “Children’s Experience” section of the Museum on the first floor. It boasts of a large handful of biblical-themed games, best for ages 10 and younger. There is also a climbing zone and slide that allow children to run and play. In the center of the “Children’s Experience” is a large sculpture of the Bible. My children played here for 15 minutes before we went to tour other places in the Museum. My husband and I used this time to look at the map and figure out a “game plan” for the highlights that we wanted to focus on. We made a bargain with our kids- if they were on their best behavior while we toured the museum, then they would be rewarded with more time in the “Children’s Experience” at the end of our tour.
After playing in the “Children’s Experience,” we went on to tour the items on loan from the Vatican Library and then onto “The World of Jesus of Nazareth” and the stories of the Old and New Testament on the 3rd floor. In Sacred Scripture , the Old Testament and the New Testament are related because the Old Testament prophecies about events that will happen in the New Testament and the New Testament answers the prophecies of the Old Testament.
Part of the third floor was made to resemble Nazareth in its entirety. It was definitely the high-point of our visit. There were a couple of period-dressed actors who represented occupations in Nazareth such as a person working in a synagogue and a young lady who cooked for her family. We experienced a model of the tree of Nazareth- that is still alive today, and a “room” that had a film about the parables. We saw a vineyard and an olive press, and a well (think, “woman at the well”). My son had fun “building” with the stone builders in Galilee.
The rest of the third floor was divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. My family visited to New Testament. The waiting room for this film was clean and modern while displaying posters of major biblical figures from the New Testament, such as Paul, Jesus and Mary. The film that we viewed was a 12 minute film of the making of the New Testament from the perspective of the Apostle John. It started with the birth of Jesus and went straight to the Resurrection and Pentecost. It had no mention of the life of or the teachings of Jesus, the man who is the nucleus of the New Testament. There was a lot of focus on Saul of Tarsus, also known as St. Paul. I appreciated this emphasis on St. Paul; after all, he did write most of the New Testament. That being said, the lack of mentioning Jesus left me more than a little disappointed. I realize that this is a 12 minute, animated film about how the New Testament was assimilated, but how can you not emphasize Jesus’ name? The film was enjoyable and my children were entertained by it. I was left a little baffled.
From there, we went to grab lunch at the Manna Restaurant by Chef Todd Gray. The price for lunch is competitive with the other museums in the DC area. I forgot to bring water bottles and we paid $2.50 each for 3 boxes of water (yes, water that comes in a box.) Next time, I will remember to pack water bottles that we can refill at the many water fountains. The food at Manna Restaurant was fresh and flavorful, but expensive.
After lunch, we ventured to the 4th floor where we watched yet another film on the drive-thru history of the making of the Bible. One of the greatest parts of this floor was the Illuminations showcase of the multitude of translations of the Bible. There was a Rabbi who was copying Hebrew scrolls. He allowed my daughter to come under the roped off section so that she could obtain a better, closeup view of the Hebrew letters that he was writing. This section of the museum required more time to tour, but our children were starting to get tired from all of the walking. As such, we took them back to the “Children’s Experience” as their reward and wrapped up our tour of the museum. In order to exit the museum, you must walk through the gift shop. *smart* I had a pack of gummy bears in my purse and told my children that if they could walk through the gift shop without asking for anything, then I would give them gummy bears when they got to the car. It was hard for them, but they did it!
There is SO MUCH to see at this museum! I’ve heard that if you stopped to read everything there, that it would take over 2 days to do so. It’s an easy place to take the kids, but the fact that my husband and I want to return on a “date night” to view the museum from an intellectual point of view, speaks to the museums versatility. I’m glad that we took the time today to tour a part of the Museum of the Bible and look forward to making many more visits there!
One thing to keep in mind is that this is NOT a museum of Christianity. If one walks in expecting to see a prevalence of Christianity, then they will be disappointed. That being said, mere elements of Christianity can be noticed throughout the museum. This IS a museum about a book- the greatest book ever written!! Keep that perspective in mind and I can ensure you that you will enjoy visiting the Museum of the Bible.