Construction has begun on the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which will see a landmarked refrigeration warehouse two blocks from the National Mall converted into an $800M museum to display some 44,000 Biblical artifacts collected by the president of Hobby Lobby, the evangelical craft store chain. The renovation of the eight-story 1923 building is being led by SmithGroup JJR, a D.C. firm that is also working on the African American museum and a proposed LGBT museum. Although drastic exterior changes to the protected warehouse are not allowed, the firm will add a two-story zinc-and-glass volume shaped like an ark to the top of the building.
Visitors to the future 430,000-square-foot museum will enter through a door flanked by tall bronze panels meant to evoke a Biblical manuscript. Once inside, they will be greeted in the triple-height lobby by a 40-foot panel of stained glass, and an LED ceiling that showcases rotating works of art inspired by the Bible.
The museum will have three main exhibition floors dedicated to the Bible's impact, narrative, and history, and will display fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, cuneiform tablets, and other items collected by Hobby Lobby's president Steve Green. The Oklahoma-based company is best known for their winning Supreme Court challenge to the Obama administration's directive that religious, family-owned companies were required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. The Museum of the Bible is slated to open in 2017.