The Museum of the Bible is set to open on Friday 17 November, just a few blocks from the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The collection includes thousands of biblical texts and artefacts, from fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls and cuneiform tablets to high-tech exhibits and a biblical garden.
The $500 million (£380m) museum's creators hope everyone will feel welcome. "Even if you're an atheist, we want you to feel comfortable coming in here realising that we're not pushing our agenda, our faith," said Hobby Lobby's Steve Green, the museum's chairman and founder. "We just want you to learn about this book and be inspired to open it up and read it when you leave."
However, Green acknowledged that many would suspect the museum of having political aims given its proximity to Congress. Hobby Lobby and the Green family drew headlines in 2014 when the Supreme Court ruled that the Oklahoma-based craft store chain and Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania could refuse to cover contraceptives in their employees' health insurance due to the religious beliefs of their owners.
"We're here because our survey showed we'd be best attended in this city," Green explained, but added that he hoped Washington's politicians would pay a visit. "They ought to know the foundation of our nation. It is built on a biblical concept."
Earlier this year, the Bible museum ran into controversy when Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit thousands of illegally smuggled ancient Middle Eastern artefacts obtained from antiquities dealers. The forfeiture included some 5,500 artefacts purchased by Hobby Lobby Inc that originated from the region of modern-day Iraq and were shipped under false labels, as well as an additional $3 million to settle the civil charges, according to the Department of Justice.
Privately-held Hobby Lobby said that it was new to the world of antiquities when it began acquiring historical items in 2009 and made mistakes in relying on dealers and shippers who "did not understand the correct way to document and ship" them. Some scholars believe forgeries could still be among the Bible museum's current collection.
On Tuesday (14 November), museum patrons and the press were given a sneak peak. IBTimes UK presents photos of the exhibits at the new museum.