National Museum of American Religion

Paul Harvey

A couple of years ago, I was asked to serve on the Advisory Board of the National Museum of American Religion, currently in its early planning stages. The Advisory Board includes a wide variety of people from diverse spectrums of interest in this topic (as well as scholarly and political work), everyone from Marie Griffith, Eddie Glaude, Robert George, and J. Spencer Fluhman to Krista Tippett, Marilyn Mellowes, and Josh Perelman.

The Museum is currently in early planning and "feasibility" stages, and I thought some of you might be interested in learning about this project. (Some of you for sure will be interested in critiquing its "story of American religion" emphasis!).

If you are at all interested in this, go here to learn more about the current crowdfunding project designed to raise some funds for the Master Interpretive Plan.

Here is a description, for your interest (and you may find a more detailed plan as it stands now here). Please share with anyone you would think would be interested.

The National Museum of American Religion (NMAR), a certified 501(c)3 non-profit organization, will tell the story of religion in America through the lens of religious liberty. It will invite Americans and all visitors to explore the role of religion in shaping the social, political, economic and cultural lives of Americans and thus America itself. The museum’s presence in Washington D.C. will highlight the centrality of personal and organized religion to America’s history and contemporary life, and the museum’s vibrant exhibits will explore the impact of individuals and movements whose beliefs and values have contributed to the unique legacy of our nation.
The first step in building this museum is a master interpretive plan,  which will establish the framework and road map for the entire project, and is the most critical step in the museum planning and design process. NMAR has partnered with Gallagher and Associates (G&A), one of the top museum design companies in the world, to complete this task. Among G&A's notable designs are the LBJ Presidential Library, the National World War II Museum, and Sant Ocean Hall located in the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. NMAR is thrilled that G&A has agreed to bring its expertise and innovative designs to our museum.


Elesha at: October 13, 2015 at 10:28 AM said...

Huh. I can see that serving on a museum planning board is not in my future, because I'd ask impertinent questions like:

Is anybody going to come to this museum other than "God and country" conservatives?

Are we going to acknowledge that "culture," politics, economics, etc. sometimes influence religion, or are we only going to portray religion as the actor?

What about all of the people, past and present, who have not been free to practice their religion in America? How does the narrative of liberty include them?

So, clearly, better you than me, Paul. Good luck!

Paul Harvey at: October 13, 2015 at 1:09 PM said...


The planning board stage has not even come yet; this is more the stage of a feasibility study to figure out if they should go forward, and hence have such a board, figure out what questions to ask (definitely including those above). I think this will take many years to work it itself out!

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