WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than half a million people have visited the Museum of the Bible since it opened near the National Mall six months ago, museum officials said.
The museum, which opened with splashy attractions such as a walk-through Old Testament and a motion ride, was funded largely by the Green family, the evangelical Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby crafts chain. Christian tour groups especially have been drawn to the six-story museum, two blocks south of the National Mall, that focuses on the Bible's history and influence in America and worldwide.
The reported tally of 565,000 guests over the first six months places the museum in company with many of Washington's other free museums. Those are operated by the public Smithsonian Institution, while the Museum of the Bible is privately owned.
The most popular Smithsonian museums far outpace the Bible museum, however. The National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History each had more than 1 million visitors in the first four months of 2018, the Smithsonian reported. The American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture also had more visitors in those four months than the Bible museum has had in six months.
But the Bible museum comes in ahead of or on pace with several Smithsonians, including the National Museum of the American Indian, with 342,000 visitors in that four-month period; the Hirshhorn Museum, with 255,000; the Renwick Gallery, with 220,000; and the National Zoo, with 390,000 guests in four months.
Washington's other private museums tend to charge admission, unlike the free-but-donation-suggested Museum of the Bible. It's on pace to exceed the first-year visitor total at the Newseum, which had 714,000 paying guests during its inaugural year on Pennsylvania Avenue NW from 2008 to 2009. And although the time periods are not the same, the Bible museum recorded more visitors in six months than the International Spy Museum, another pay-to-enter institution, recorded from January to June 2017. In those six months, 319,352 people bought tickets, the spy museum said. It is moving next year to a site where it expects more visitors.