Museum of the Bible, from a Designer’s Point of View

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Friday July 26, 2019

Finally, a dream come true! We got to go to the Museum of the Bible! Ever since I heard about it a few years ago, I have wanted to go.

As a designer who practices graphic design, interior design and lighting design, as well as an event coordinator who loves creating engaging experiences for people, this visit to the museum was one of the top highlights of our entire trip to Washington DC. (Albert and I went there to celebrate our 28th anniversary!) It was a wonderful experience. I felt so refreshed creatively after going through it!

Here is a pictorial record of some of what we saw in the Bible museum. I am reflecting on design and experiential aspects of the museum (as opposed to theological or philosophical reflections).

For those who don’t like spoilers, don’t read this post. (I have a lot of pictures!)

The front of the museum has massive panels on either side that are like scrolls or something. It’s written in Hebrew.

The building is beautiful. It’s contemporary in style and so high tech! The ceiling is a huge LED panel with changing artwork. It’s kind of mesmerizing to watch it. It’s so lovely.

The only negative experience was the super slow line to get tickets. We found out you can get discounted tickets online. Too bad we didn’t know that til it was too late.

But once we got through, everything else was awesome. Even the elevator was high tech with LED panels showing moving images!

We headed straight for the 30 minute show about the story of the Old Testament. I loved it! 

The waiting area had graphics hintng at the stories to come. I love the simplicity of the symbols that represent the stories. All the design was so well done in the museum.

Throughout the experience, the story was told in different spaces. They used animation, lighting, sound, strategically placed doors and even a lit room of rainbow glowing walls (to symbolize the rainbow after the flood). Each room was a different setting and the screen was different as well. Here’s a screen that was made of different panels pieced together.

Another room had a statue of an Israelite family gathered together and told the story of Passover purely with different kinds of lighting on the statue.

I wish I had been able to take pictures but there was no photography allowed. It was quite an amazing experience though! Highlights included a burning bush that was 3D and really looked like it was burning. Large wires gave the effect of the parting of the Red Sea. As we walked through, the wires seemed to vibrate. It was an optical illusion that felt a little dizzying. Every story was creatively told.

We walked through a biblical times village. The lighting is not so great in these photos… Part of the downside of using a phone. 🙁

I like how they use gobos and lighting to simulate shadows. There were different kinds of buildings all around a “street.”

The painting was amazing. It was on the side as if there was a countryside, and they did a good job blending in the 3D rock with the painting.

I really do not know how they made such a realistic looking tree. Amazing!

In another room there was a table set out like people were going to eat.

There was another space that was a synagogue. It was kind of cool later I saw a picture of an actual synagogue from those times and it looked just like this!

One area was like a “vista point” where you could see a lake (The Sea of Galilee?) and the cities all around it. Going through this museum made me really want to visit Israel. That is a definite on my bucket list!

They had a millstone to grind grapes with some pretty realistic looking watery substance in there, which probably is hard plastic or acrylic.

Another waiting area had what looked like movie posters of New Testament characters.

Such awesome design. Love the symbolism and simple design.

I really liked this one because of the combination of the stars and family tree. When Abraham looked at all the stars, he had no idea what the future held. Only God knew. And now we look back and it is so amazing!!

The entryway to the stories of the Bible has a combination of modern and historic elements, almost like the ancient arches with lighting.

I love exhibition design. It was so interesting to walk through all the spaces and wonder how they came up with the different ways of displaying information.

They used layers of light, hard surfaces, fabrics and images for interest.

There was extensive use of LED screens.I can’t remember what this was but I think it was a workshop where someone would demonstrate something.

The artifacts I loved the most were the illuminated manuscripts. They were so amazing!!!!!! It boggles my mind me that someone would have the patience to hand letter hundreds and hundreds of pages.

The ones with illustrations were the most impressive. They are so lavishly illustrated and I couldn’t figure out how they could do that with such minute detail.

They had gold leaf integrated into pages as well.

Look at this detail! So amazing! Even the borders on the top are incredibly precise. I wonder how long it took to do something like this? Weeks? Months? Years?

This is a printed engraving in a Bible. The meticulous detail is astounding since in those days they did everything at 100% scale. It wasn’t like someone drew this big and then they shrunk it down. I did do acid etching engraving in high school. It was fun and made me realize how much work it is to create art like this.

One area that was very impactful was the library where they showed every language of the world. The brown books were all the languages that had a Bible or partial Bible. (There were different Bibles depending on how much had been translated.)

What was so amazing was the yellow books, each one representing a language that had not yet had a Bible translated. Wow! I had no idea. This isn’t even all of them as I couldn’t get them all in one picture. There is a lot of work ahead. Made me so grateful for so many people working on Bible translating all over the world.

Another art feature that was really cool was the Wall of One Million Names. These are the names of all the people who give to the campaign. I should’ve taken a picture for scale but each of these panels appears to be about eight feet tall.

They use microcalligraphy. Here’s a close-up.

There’s also a garden outside where there is a wall of water cascading down. They called it the Biblical Garden but I don’t know why they called it that, as I couldn’t associate the plants with plants in the Bible.

Another example of the creative use of technology. This was video projected onto some kind of hard material — plastic? Glass?

I got a kick out of this. This is a facsimile of a geneological chronicle of the entire Bible created in 1352. It was created to show that popes and Holy Roman emperors descended from Adam, biblical kings, and Christ. 

I got a kick because it’s an ancient infographic!!!

Here’s another clever use of technology. The table is one big screen and portrays a modern Passover seder.

No one knows what the printing press looks like that Gutenberg used, but here is one to show the idea. This thing is massive. It is so hard to imagine him printing a Bible, one page at a time and typesetting every single letter. That truly is a labor of love!

It’s fascinating to think how much the printing press has changed the world. I reflected on the power of the word, how words have the power to heal and to wound, to create new nations and overthrow old ones. The word is powerful. Thousands of years later, the central feature of most church services still continues to be good old fashioned sermon preaching. People gather around to hear someone speak, encounter God, and lives are transformed.

Brings a lot of significance to remembering that in the beginning was the Word. God created us to engage through words and uses His Word to bring eternal redemption.

I thought this was interesting signage. I wonder what the significance of their cutting the words and misaligning the letters and using a mirror finish?

It matches the walls of the entrance as well as the high tech interior.

There is so much more to the museum and I wish we had more time. Going through was so creatively inspiring, thought provoking and even worshipful. I am grateful for all the work that went into putting this museum together and showing the content of the Bible, the history, and the impact it has made.

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