By Michael Foust
Ask people on the street to describe their last visit to a museum, and you’ll likely get a slew of less-than-enthusiastic responses: old, stale and even boring.
The Museum of the Bible, which opens in November, hopes to change that perception by becoming — in the words of representatives — the most technologically advanced museum in the world. The goal: bring the Bible to life as guests learn about its history and impact.
The $500 million, 430,000-square-foot museum will house 12 theaters, 93 projectors, 250 computers and 384 monitors — not to mention 200 miles of low-voltage cables.
But the biggest advancement will greet visitors at the museum entrance. There, each guest will receive a computer tablet known as a “Digital Guide,” which will take advantage of 500 wireless access points throughout the museum to provide guests a one-of-a-kind tour experience based on their age and desires.
Jeff Schneider, vice president for information and interactive systems at the Museum of the Bible, said the vision for the Digital Guides came from the belief that the best museum experiences use live tour guides.
“We are trying to incorporate as much of a live tour guide experience as possible, paired with additional features that only technology can provide,” he said. “The resulting efforts create a new level of engagement and guest satisfaction that’s not easily achievable any other way.”
Visitors to the Museum of the Bible can listen to audio narration through headphones or read the full transcripts onscreen.
The Digital Guides — which are included in the price of admission — can:
- Re-route a guest’s tour from a busy room to a less-occupied one.
- Adjust the tour when a guest deviates from the pre-planned tour.
- Accommodate those with physical disabilities or hearing and visual impairments.
If guests just want to “wing it” — that is, to walk through the museum without a pre-planned tour — the Digital Guides will allow that, too. But even then, the Digital Guides can track a guest’s location and provide relevant information.
The museum owns 3,100 of the Android-powered Lenovo Phab2 Pro tablets, which incorporate 64 gigabytes of internal storage and four gigabytes of RAM, and feature wireless charging, remote updating, and 10 languages.
Indoor navigation, though, was a challenge. That’s because three prominent options — GPS, WiFi positioning and Bluetooth — fall short. GPS is not effective indoors, and WiFi positioning and Bluetooth are not as accurate as needed. The solution came in “ultra-wideband radio technology,” which is accurate to within six inches.
“When developing various features of the digital guide, we visited many museums,” Schneider said. “Besides the most obvious use — such as finding the nearest restroom — our experience revealed a need for families and small groups. As individual members of a family explore a museum at their own pace, it’s easy to get separated.”
The Digital Guides solve the separation problem by allowing parents and children always to find one another. An even bigger advancement might be the ability to keep children entertained while their parents stick in one room.
The Digital Guides have three age levels: adults and teens; 9-12, and 8-and-under.
“The Digital Guide automatically adjusts the kids’ tour experience based on how long or brief the adult dwells within an area,” Schneider said. “This is quite an achievement given that both the adult and child are experiencing their own immersive tour experience, unique to themselves, even though they are in the same areas together.”
Digital Guides — and the next generation of such devices — may change how the public views museums.
“We believe the digital guide — the way we envision it — is one of the most effective ways of complementing the museum experience, providing new levels of engagement and interaction, as well as innovative solutions to meet guest needs,” Schneider said. “Just as paper maps have been replaced by GPS and Google Maps, so we believe the digital guide will disrupt the museum wayfinding and touring experience.”
Learn more at www.museumofthebible.org.
Michael Foust is an award-winning freelance writer and father of four children. He blogs at www.michaelfoust.com.
DC’s Newest Museum to Offer Free Admission
By Michelle Farmer
WASHINGTON – Museum of the Bible, the 430,000-square-foot museum opening on Nov. 17 just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, announced today it will not charge a fee for general admission. Similar to the admission policies of other museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, Museum of the Bible will instead suggest a $15 donation, with guests under no obligation to pay anything. Museum of the Bible will also offer guests the ability to reserve timed-entry tickets.
“Our mission is to invite all people to engage with the Bible,” said Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers. “We can think of no more fundamental way to give people access to the treasures and experiences inside this museum than to offer public admission coupled with the ability to reserve timed-entry tickets.”
Guests will be able to get timed tickets in advance online. Reservations for timed entry will be limited and are available to the public starting Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. ET at museumoftheBible.org
The Basic Membership plan starts at $60 for an individual or $150 for families. The museum offers numerous membership options which continue up to the $1,000 Founding Champion level and beyond.
“Membership to the museum is a great way to get year-round early access to beat the lines and show your support for the Bible,” said Tony Zeiss, executive director of the museum in Washington. “Members make visitors possible, and each individual or family who commits annually will give people from around the world access to engage with the history, narrative and impact of the Bible.”
The museum will comprise eight floors, including expansive exhibit and gallery space, visiting libraries and temporary exhibit space, a restaurant and biblical garden, a performing arts theater, a grand ballroom, and event space. In total, the museum’s immense amount of content could take the average person many days to view
Museum of the Bible has been recognized by CNN as one of the most anticipated and beautifully designed museums opening in 2017; by Smithsonian.com as one of the “must-see” museums opening this year; and by Forbes as one of the top 100 nonprofits in the U.S. Other national media attention around the opening of the museum has come from Time, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Fox News and many other media organizations.
A full breakdown of all available membership plans is available at museumoftheBible.org/join.
About Museum of the Bible
Museum of the Bible is an innovative, global, educational institution whose purpose is to invite all people to engage with the Bible. In 2017, Museum of the Bible, which aims to be the most technologically advanced museum in the world, will open its 430,000-square-foot nonprofit museum just three blocks from the Capitol in Washington, D.C. A digital fly-through of the museum is viewable online at museumoftheBible.org.