Devotees and pilgrims who want to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have another option if they cannot make it to the actual Jerusalem site, as the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. currently features a virtual reality exhibit called "Tomb of Christ: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Experience."
The 3-D visual treat will run at the museum until the end of 2018. Visitors longing to learn more about where Jesus Christ was supposed to be buried can actually be transported to the site without flying to another continent.
Fred Hiebert, the museum's resident archaeologist and curator, told Crux Now that it had taken a long time for the church to agree to the 3-D exhibit. He added that the plan to conserve the holy site in a virtual environment was actually hatched as early as the 1950s. However, the six religious groups that share the responsibility and management of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem -- the Roman Catholic, the Armenian Apostolic, and the Coptic, Ethiopian, Greek and Syriac Orthodox -- could not agree.
"That didn't make it easy to carry out the project," Hiebert revealed.
In 2016, the groups changed its mind and Hiebert went with his team to Jerusalem to begin the work. Restoring the site in a virtual setup involved several stages of laser and sonar scanning, as well as thermal imaging.
"I consider it a symbol of optimism that when push came to shove the Churches came together," Hiebert said. "And I like to think that people will come to the museum and get that sense of optimism."
Visitors can learn about the site's historical significance and other facets as they walk around the area while wearing virtual reality glasses. A 3-D film viewing will also cap the whole experience.
The "Tomb of Christ: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Experience" first opened its doors in November 2017. The exhibit was supposed to last until August 2018, but it has been extended to Dec. 31 of this year.