APU Partners with New Museum of the Bible in DC

by Rebekah Bruckner

Located only two blocks from the National Mall, The Museum of the Bible opened its doors on November 17, 2017, amidst much anticipation. The $500 million museum documents the history of the Bible, explores its impact through the ages, and communicates the biblical narrative through artifacts, high-tech displays, reenactments of biblical scenes, and replicas of significant locations. Azusa Pacific University enjoys a partnership with the museum and several members of the APU community attended the opening.

From traditional displays to a flight simulator that guides riders through various points of interest in Washington, DC where biblical texts are visible, this 430,000-square-foot educational institution attracts visitors from around the world. The massive building comprised of eight floors, three of which are dedicated to permanent installations, features more than 500 biblical texts and artifacts. Included in the permanent installations is a display of curated manuscripts from the Vatican Museums and a collection of artifacts from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The Museum of the Bible celebrates all aspects of the Bible—its history, content, canonization, and utilization by Christians throughout church history,” said Don Thorsen, Ph.D., professor, Azusa Pacific Seminary. “It publicly displays the Bible in ways that draw a wide audience, providing a space for people to learn about the Bible and faith.” During his visit, Thorsen attended the Broadway musical Amazing Grace, playing at the World Stage theater, housed on the fifth floor of the museum. “The musical was an unexpected surprise. I was very moved by its message of a man—John Newton—whose capitalistically-driven life of overseeing a slave trade was transformed by a grace-driven conversion, subsequently leading to full-time ministry.” The show ran through January 7, 2018, accompanied by an exhibit entitled, “Amazing Grace: How Sweet the Sound.”

Azusa Pacific University’s Special Collections contributed to this exhibit, with Ken Otto, MLIS, special collections librarian, working along side museum curator Amy Van Dyke. “The museum borrowed five items from the APU libraries that helped support the narrative of the exhibit,” said Otto. Items include a piece by Isaac Watts from the 1700s, a recording of “Amazing Grace,” and three musical scores of the song. Otto spent a few days in the museum assisting Van Dyke in mounting and installing APU’s items. As they worked, special guests, including members of congress and the media, roamed the halls, experiencing the museum before it opened to the public. “It is wonderful to see pieces from APU’s library on display in such a prominent place. I am honored that we are able to share our faith and dedication to biblical studies with a global audience.”

Azusa Pacific University students and faculty also collaborated with the Museum of the Bible on Dead Sea Scrolls research, resulting in a published book, Dead Sea Scrolls in the Museum Collection. Students worked alongside Timothy Finlay, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biblical Studies, and Robert Duke, Ph.D., dean, School of Theology and Azusa Pacific Seminary, for this multi-year research project. “Our relationship with the Museum of the Bible has been a pleasure,” said Duke. “Our students work on important and significant research, enriching their educational experience and understanding of the Bible’s historical significance. We look forward to an ongoing relationship with the museum and hope to host a traveling exhibit on APU’s campus in the near future.”

The museum leaves many visitors in awe, including Peggy Campbell, APU Board of Trustees Chair. “The museum exemplifies how the Bible impacts every sphere of our culture—entertainment, sports, government, education—the word of God is evident in all of these areas,” said Campbell. “The Museum of the Bible is a world-class facility and Christians can be proud of it.”

Rebekah Bruckner ’18 is an editorial and public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a English major and a graphic design minor.