Located in the small town of Petersburg, Kentucky, the Creation Museum was created by the pseudoscientific, creationist Christian apologetics organization, Answers in Genesis. The museum promotes the narrative that the earth was created 6,000 years ago and in literal accordance with the Judeo-Christian creation story found in the book of Genesis. The museum has been criticized by scientists and educators ever since its opening in 2007.
Backstory and Context
Petersburg, a small town in northern Kentucky about 25 miles away from Cincinnati, is home to of one of America's most popular pseudoscience museums. Opened in 2007 by the creationist Christian group Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum promotes the scientific and historical narrative that the earth was created 6,000 years ago according to the creation story found in Genesis.
Ever since it was founded in 1994, Answers in Genesis had plans for a creationist museum and training center in Kentucky. After purchasing 49 acres for an undisclosed price in 2000, construction of the Creation Museum began the following year. Originally, the museum designed to be 30,000 square feet and was projected to open in mid-2002. Shortly after, however, expansions were made on the original building design to accommodate the rising number of projected visitors. The final version of the museum ended up at about 60,000 square feet with a price tag of $27 million. Certain major construction and engineering services were donated to the museum and all funds were privately raised.
The Creation Museum officially opened on May 28, 2007 to roughly 4,000 guests. Across the street from its entrance, hundreds protested against the museum citing its pseudoscientific exhibits on archaeology, biology, geology, anatomy, and evolutionary science. The museum has been an incredibly popular tourist location, with creationists from around the country, and even around the world, travelling to visit. Within five months of opening, the museum hit 250,000 visitors- the number that Answers in Genesis had projected it would reach by the end of the year.
From their conceptions, both Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum have attracted major controversy and criticism for their spurious science and use of federal tax rebates. They have been featured in the BBC series The Story of God, comedian Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous, and even on TLC’s popular television show 17 Kids and Counting, as a day trip spot for the Duggar Family.
On February 4, 2014, the Creation Museum hosted a debate between Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham and the popular science educator Bill Nye on the question, "Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins?" The debate was moderated by Tom Foreman of CNN and was watched live by over 3 million people. Although there was no score kept, and therefore no official winners or losers, scientists and educators resoundingly spoke out in favor of Bill Nye’s position that the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that evolutionary biology is real. Ken Ham later announced that the publicity surrounding the debate boosted the museum’s fundraising for construction of the Ark Encounter theme park, featuring a 510 foot long replica of Noah’s Ark, which was opened 45 miles away in Grant County, Kentucky on July 7, 2016. In 2020, the Creation Museum got second place in the Best Religious Museums category of the USA Today/10Best.com Readers Choice Awards. First place went to the Ark Encounter.
Chowdhury, Sudeshna. Bill Nye versus Ken Ham: Who Won?, The Christian Science Monitor. February 5th 2014. Accessed September 15th 2020. https://web.archive.org/web/20140611131752/http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-357806905.html.
Clark, Ryan. Creation Museum on track; $27M raised to finish center by May 28 opening, execs say", The Cincinnati Enquirer . April 11th 2007. Accessed September 15th 2020. http://nky.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20070411/NEWS0103/704110405&nclick_check=1.
Duncan, Julie Ann. Faith Displayed As Science: The Role of the "Creation Museum" in the Modern American Creationist Movement, Harvard University. February 2nd 2008. Accessed September 15th 2020. https://books.google.com/books?id=wUKPx0JzA3QC&newbks=0&hl=en&source=newbks_fb.
Heller, Karen. A giant ark is just the start. These creationists have a bigger plan for recruiting new believers., The Washington Post. May 24th 2017. Accessed September 14th 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/a-giant-ark-is-just-the-start-these-creationists-have-a-bigger-plan-for-recruiting-new-believers/2017/05/24/b497bd14-2920-11e7-be51-b3fc6ff7faee_story.html.
Lovan, Dylan T.. Educators question Creation Museum, Augusta Chronicle. May 19th 2007. Accessed September 14th 2020. http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2007/05/19/met_129149.shtml.
The National Academy of Sciences. Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences. Edition 2nd. Washington, D.C. National Academy Press, 1999.
USA Today. Best Religious Museum: Readers vote Ark Encounter, USA Today. March 11th 2020. Accessed September 15th 2020. https://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-religious-museum/.
Zaimov, Stoyan. Bill Nye, Ken Ham Discuss Humans and Dinosaurs With Piers Morgan; Reactions to Creationist Debate, The Christian Post. February 5th 2014. Accessed September 15th 2020. https://web.archive.org/web/20140305151507/http://global.christianpost.com/news/bill-nye-ken-ham-discuss-humans-and-dinosaurs-with-piers-morgan-reactions-to-creationist-debate-114043/.