NASHVILLE, TN — It felt more like a museum than a Convention exhibit, with ancient artifacts, early Bible manuscripts, and medieval art.
Nonetheless, the Exhibit Hall at Proclaim 16, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, is where Christian media professionals encountered a sprawling preview of the Museum of the Bible, slated to open in Washington, DC, November 2017.
“This is sort of an introduction to the DC museum,” said Steven Embree, exhibit marketing manager for the Museum of the Bible, Proclaim 16’s Platinum-level Sponsor.
After exhibit visitors passed through an introductory room, they could visit three main areas, each corresponding to a floor of the coming museum: the “impact” area chronicling the Bible’s influence on the world; the “history” area tracing Scripture’s transmission from its early Greek and Hebrew manuscripts to modern bound translations; and the “narrative” area telling the stories of the Old and New Testaments.
The exhibit also updated visitors on construction of the Washington museum, with a video encapsulating the past two months of work in 30 seconds and a 3D walkthrough film demonstrating what the finished product will look like.
“The location is great,” Embree said. “We’re about two blocks south of the Air and Space Museum and three blocks to the southwest of the Capitol.”
Among the artifacts highlighted by curators for Proclaim 16 attendees were the world’s oldest complete Hebrew codex — the modern book form of presenting documents — and a ninth-century codex written on recycled paper from Bible manuscripts.
The Hebrew codex, known as the Proto-Prayer Book, was described by Museum of the Bible assistant curator Herschel Hepler as “easily a top-five piece within the collection.” Still bound with its original cover, the ancient book is some 1,200 years old and dates to within three or four generations of when Jews first began employing the technology of binding books.
The Codex Climaci Rescriptus is significant because the ninth-century scribe who compiled it recycled parchment from older documents, including biblical manuscripts, said assistant curator Bethany Jensen. That scribe apparently scraped off old writing to clear the pages, but over time the previous text seeped through, revealing copies of 1 Samuel 4-6 and John 7-9, among other texts. Modern scholars have studied the ancient under-text using multispectral imaging.
When these and approximately 50 other artifacts on display at Proclaim 16 take their place among 400-500 more in Washington, they will be presented in conjunction with multimedia exhibits, like a series of 3D immersive screens displaying what’s being said at any given moment about the Bible on social media and in news reports. A “Flyboard Theater” will make museum visitors feel like they’re flying through Washington and viewing Scripture passages inscribed on various government buildings.
The 430,000-square-foot museum’s aim, Embree said, is to be “biblically as accurate as [we] can” while also presenting the material in a way that can be appreciated by Protestants, Catholics, Jews, people of other faiths, and people of no faith.
“I’ve been with the museum for a year and a half,” he said. “When I started, we had three years to go [until the grand opening], and we’re already halfway there. ... This next year and a half is going to fly by.”
The Museum of the Bible continues as a Platinum Sponsor of the NRB International Christian Media Convention for the next two years, Embree said, with its Convention exhibit highlighting a different facet of the organization’s work each year.
By David Roach
Published: March 2, 2016