The American Bible Society closes its museum

The American Bible Society (ABS) announced the permanent closure of the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center (FLDC), its Bible museum located in Philadelphia's Independence Mall. The organization, specializing in the translation, publication and sending of Bibles throughout the world, founded it in May 2021. It is therefore after less than three years of existence that the museum will close its doors. door, in a few days.

This decision is mainly due to the lack of attendance at the FLDC. The ABS had invested more than $60 million (€55 million) in creating the museum, predicting it would attract around 250,000 visitors a year. However, according to Christianity Today, revenues from ticket sales at the museum would indicate a much lower number, only around 5,400 visitors for the year 2022. In a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, the FLDC also mentioned the pandemic and the “structural limitations” as part of the causes of the closure.

The American Bible Society itself faces financial and structural problems, which have worsened over the past two years. Thirty employees would have been laid off at the end of 2023 (around 20% of their workforce). The ABS has also been weakened by the rapid turnover of its leaders – five having succeeded each other in barely two years – and by the loss in 2022 of one of its main donors, the organization Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) .

Jennifer Holloran, the new general director of ABS who arrived last February, therefore decided that “the time had come to take the difficult but necessary step” to close the FLDC, with the ABS spending nearly $10 million (9.2 million euros) each year to keep it afloat and $1.3 million (1.2 million euros) for rental of its space. The ABS will now prioritize the provision of grants for “research, encouragement and promotion of innovations in access to the Bible” she specifies, adding that she is impatient to “reimagine what the future of (museum) content could be in a digitized and publicly accessible format”.

FLDC occupies 37,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of Independence Mall in Philadelphia. It was created with the aim of telling “the relationship between faith and freedom in America, highlighting the influence of the Bible”. The museum's collection includes many historical Bibles, including the Braille Bible of Helen Keller (1880-1968) and that of the English theologian and settler William Penn (1644-1718). The museum also organized exhibitions, largely digital with videos and interactive presentations.

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