Last month on a whim my friend and I decided to visit the Billy Graham Museum at Wheaton College. Or maybe it was all part of God’s plan. I guess I’ll never know. Graham went to several Bible colleges before eventually graduating from Wheaton College in 1943. But Wheaton is more important for another reason as this is where Graham decided to accept the Bible as the infallible word of God and start his ministry, known for its evangelistic crusades. The museum tells you everything you need to know about Billy Graham and then some. Something like 2 billion people have heard Graham’s preaching, which is evident in the many photos and videos displayed in the museum. They even have his famous traveling pulpit, which excited several people into posing for many tourist pictures, which influenced me to do the same. While standing behind it, his voice fills the room and one girl (holding her personal Bible of course) appeared to be crying. And of course there are Billy Graham’s family photographs, mementos and certificates, keys to various cities and his personal copy of The Modern Student’s Life of Christ. A bit jealous the other Billy Graham Museum in Charlotte has his wife Ruth’s wedding ring and their wedding cake topper. But let’s get back to the museum in Wheaton, it’s not just about Graham but all of evangelical history from early American puritanism to the Salvation Army to Dwight L. Moody. One thing I learned – Due to the blockade during the American Revolution no Bibles could be imported, which led to a bit of a panic so the Continental Congress printed Bibles in Philadelphia in 1782. But this was hardly America’s first Bible as is the Eliot Algonquin Indian Bible was first made back 1663.
The museum starts in the Rotunda of Witnesses, a giant black room displaying banners of important evangelicals, like the Apostle Paul, Justin Martyr, Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi and Martin Luther. Then there is a large and (from my museological point of view) impressive exhibit space telling the story of American Evangelicalism with lots of dioramas, audio visuals and animated displays. Next, another dark room displays the ‘Cross of the Millenium’, a translucent cross of Jesus with Bible quotes. It was definitely my friend’s favorite part as she said it reminded her of Star Wars. As I’ve never seen the film, I have no idea what she’s talking about, but I’m sure it’s funny. Next, room after never-ending room tells you everything you ever wanted to know about Billy Graham but were afraid to ask. Right when you think it is over, the museum plays a trick in another series of never-ending rooms, which is referred to as “Walk Through the Gospel’. You enter the desert and see a 45 foot high by 195 foot wide painting of Jesus’ crucifixion, then you walk through a cross-shaped hallway that zigzags towards a sky, that is supposed to symbolize the resurrection. Due to the many mirrors and clear glass in the room, one sees an optical illusion of a never-ending sky. Notice a theme here? Well, the museum is still not done telling its story. The second to last stop is at the chapel where you can pray and leave inspiring notes, followed by the Sacred Arts Gallery, which displays temporary art exhibits. And phew…you’re done! Amen.