Museum of the Bible set to open in D.C.

$500 million edifice with eight floors devoted to best-selling book

Museum of the Bible spokesman Jeremy Bur­ton, right, gives a preview tour of the museum to the Rev. Harry L. Thomas, a mu­sic festi­val di­rec­tor from Penn­syl­va­nia. The $500 million facility is scheduled to open this fall a couple of blocks from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

WASH­ING­TON - Hun­dreds of work­ers are la­bor­ing fu­ri­ously to fin­ish the cap­i­tal's lat­est ma­jor tourist at­trac­tion: a new build­ing de­voted to the world's best-sell­ing book.

The half-bil­lion-dol­lar Mu­seum of the Bible, an eight-story, 430,000-square-­foot project, is sched­uled to open this fall.

For now, it is still very much a con­struc­tion zone, lit­tered with lad­ders and power tools and equip­ment. There are bags of white Port­land ce­ment, boxes of drill point dry­wall screws and tile to be in­stalled.

So far, ev­ery­thing's go­ing as planned.

"Right now, the con­struc­tion is on sched­ule, the ex­hibits are all on sched­ule. We feel very good about our progress," says mu­seum Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Tony Zeiss.

The ded­i­ca­tion is set for Nov. 17, six days be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. Hobby Lobby Pres­i­dent Steve Green of Ok­la­homa City is spear­head­ing the project.

Con­struc­tion be­gan in 2014.

"There's never been a mu­seum of this size, a world-stage mu­seum de­vel­oped for the Bible, so we're mak­ing his­tory here," Zeiss says.

Or­ga­niz­ers con­sid­ered plac­ing the mu­seum in Texas, but ul­ti­mately placed it in south­west Wash­ing­ton, D.C., a cou­ple of blocks from the Na­tional Mall and roughly a half-mile from the Capi­tol ro­tunda.

It was, of­fi­cials say, the most log­i­cal spot for the $500 mil­lion pri­vately funded fa­cil­ity.

"The No. 1 city of mu­se­ums in Amer­ica is Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and I think the sur­vey data just over­whelm­ingly un­der­scored that point. That's why we chose Wash­ing­ton, D.C.," Zeiss says.

The goal is to ed­u­cate, not to pros­e­ly­tize, or­ga­niz­ers say.

"We are not ad­vo­cates for any re­li­gion or any min­istry or any doc­trine. We sim­ply are ad­vo­cates for the Book and we present the Book to all peo­ple," Zeiss says. "Think about it: No other book has had such an im­pact, cer­tainly on Western civilization, if not the world, than the Bible."

Dur­ing a recent tour, mu­seum spokesman Jeremy Bur­ton walks vis­i­tors around the fa­cil­ity, in­clud­ing travel writ­ers from Ger­many and the Rev. Harry L. Thomas, di­rec­tor of an an­nual Chris­tian mu­sic fes­ti­val.

As he walks, Bur­ton out­lines the mu­seum's ob­jec­tives.

"We fo­cus on the his­tory of the Bible; the nar­ra­tive of the Bible - the sto­ries; and the im­pact of the Bible," Bur­ton says.

There'll be frag­ments of an­cient parch­ments and ex­perts on hand to study them. There'll be a gar­den on the top floor, fea­tur­ing plants from Is­rael and there­abouts.

One floor will fea­ture a replica of the 2,080-pound Lib­erty Bell. The iconic sym­bol of Amer­i­can in­de­pen­dence is en­graved with a pas­sage from the book of Leviti­cus: "Pro­claim Lib­erty through­out all the land unto all the in­hab­i­tants thereof."

There'll also be a replica of Jo­hannes Guten­berg's print­ing press. The Li­brary of Congress has de­scribed the Guten­berg Bible as "the first great book printed in Western Europe from mov­able metal type."

The mu­seum is also in­vest­ing in cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy, Bur­ton says, spend­ing $42 mil­lion just on high-tech fea­tures.

Each guest will be handed a tablet to help them nav­i­gate the eight floors. There's even a GPS-type sys­tem to help vis­i­tors find their way.

On the first floor, a 140-foot-long dig­i­tal dis­play will be run­ning through­out the day.

There'll even be a ride, of sorts, that sim­u­lates air travel, com­plete with bird's-eye views and ar­ti­fi­cial wind gusts.

"It's go­ing to make you feel like you're fly­ing around Wash­ing­ton, D.C.," Bur­ton says. "The whole plat­form is mov­ing - you're up there mov­ing with it."

Ad­mis­sion won't be charged, but vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions will be rec­om­mended, Bur­ton says.

After his tour, Thomas, the mu­sic fes­ti­val di­rec­tor, gives the mu­seum rave re­views.

"I think it's phe­nom­e­nal," he says. "It's go­ing to take me days to go through it, but I can't wait."