In October 2012 a new self-guided exhibit outlining the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses opened in Brooklyn, New York. The exhibit highlights the struggles and dangers faced by those who sought to practice Christianity as taught by Jesus.
In the first week alone, more than 4,200 guests and members of the Bethel family toured this exhibit. Naomi, a Witness who lives nearby, took her tour soon after the exhibit opened. “The time line format helped me to understand when and why things happened as they did,” she commented. “I learned a lot about our organization and its modern-day history.”
The tour begins with the Christian era in 33 C.E. and continues to the present. The exhibit is arranged in four sections. Each section has a Scriptural theme and is introduced by a short video that can be played in English, with subtitles in seven languages.
The first section, “Men Have Loved the Darkness,” draws its title from the words of Jesus found at John 3:19. The Bible foretold that after the apostles died, wicked men would “rise and speak twisted things.” (Acts 20:30) Those who dared to resist the tide paid a heavy price.
In stark contrast, the next section, “Let the Light Shine,” based on 2 Corinthians 4:6, picks up the time line in the late 1800’s when sincere Bible students began a fresh study of the Scriptures. They abandoned long-held beliefs that are not in the Bible and courageously preached illuminating truths. This section tells of their growth in knowledge and numbers before World War I.
The tour continues with a room that highlights an accomplishment that intrigues Jehovah’s Witnesses to this day. In 1914 the Bible Students (as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known) began presenting the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” Millions saw this multimedia production, which combined still and motion pictures with recorded sound. Exhibited items include some of the original artwork, a short sampling of the program’s introduction, and over 500 color slides.
Satanic persecution of Christ’s followers, described at Revelation 12:17, is the theme of the third section designated “The Dragon Grew Wrathful.” Christian neutrality during times of war is highlighted here. Augmenting the displays of artifacts and pictures, short video clips dramatize the attempted coercion used on conscientious objectors, such as Remigio Cuminetti of Italy, who refused to wear a military uniform or fight in World War I. Another clip tells of Alois Moser from Austria. He refused to say “Heil Hitler” and, as a result, lost his job and was eventually sent to the Dachau concentration camp. A reconstruction of a dimly lit jail cell provides a sobering backdrop for pictures that document the imprisonment of Jehovah’s Witnesses for practicing their faith in Greece, Japan, Poland, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere.
The final section, “Good News for All Nations,” based on Revelation 14:6, looks at the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in recent decades. Their rapid growth, persistent preaching, and brotherly love are reflected in pictures that line the walls. Finally, a bank of interactive kiosks allows visitors to explore the Bible House and the Brooklyn Tabernacle, places used by Jehovah’s Witnesses over 100 years ago.
The exhibit is located at 25 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn, New York. It is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and admission is free. If you are in New York City, why not come and take a fascinating tour through time?