INDEPENDENCE MALL (WPVI) --Coming to Independence Mall fall of 2018, The Faith and Liberty Discovery Center. The $60 million private initiative of the American Bible Society will be built on the first floor of the Wells Fargo building.
"It's no accident that we decided to build this here in Philadelphia. A city founded by William Penn, whose belief in religious freedom landed him in prison," said Roy Peterson, ABS president and CEO.
"You need to know your own history in this country and you need to know other people's history in this country in order to respect each other's contributions into what this nation has become," said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
The overall experience will be 40,000 square feet, 25,000 of exhibition space. A central question will be: How did the Bible influence the people who shaped the country, from the colonial era to today?
"We'll see civil rights activists who are fighting for the equality of men and women, community organizers restoring survivors from natural disasters, soldiers defending our freedom, all kinds of everyday people and stories," said Peterson.
Combining artifacts, storytelling, and technology, the idea is to create an experience that's personalized, but also universal. On display at the announcement at Independence Visitor Center was the first English Bible printed in America. Fewer than 40 survive today.
"Another key artifact is Helen Keller's Bible, which I think stands in again for the spirit of resilience, and also the ways in which scripture can both inspire an individual and then that individual can then inspire a nation," said Jake Barton, Local Projects.
The center expects to draw 250,000 visitors each year, with the goal of attracting people of all faiths, or none. They'll be neighbors with the National Museum of American Jewish History.
"We warmly welcome this new attraction to enrich the city's interfaith dialogue and knowledge of America's religious history," said Ivy Barsky, NMAJH.
Construction is set to begin this spring.