Having freed themselves from the bonds of both theology and science, the promoters of the museum (which is organized as a charity) seem mostly to be singing from the Walt Disney marketing hymnal.
The most e-mailed story in the New York Times on Friday, May 25, 2007 covered the opening of a museum (Edward Rothstein). Perhaps the only museum in the US able to generate that level of attention, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which officially opens Memorial Day, uses the techniques and style of a contemporary science museum (including animatronic dinosaurs) to present the scientific support for the creation account in the book of Genesis.
The museum is just the next step for its charity sponsor, Answers in Genesis of Kentucky (EIN 33-0596423 Form 990), which founded in 1994 by Ken Ham, Mark Looy, and Mike Zorvath as a ministry to promote a literal biblical view of the world. Its projects include a magazine (Answers) with a circulation of 50,000, a radio program, books, DVDs, and 350 seminars a year. The NY Times articles says that it claims 9,000 members, while the Form 990 for the first half of 2005 shows contributions at an annual rate of nearly $8 million.
A partial-year Form 990 is produced when an organization changes its fiscal year. Here it appears that the organization is changing from a calendar year to a June 30 fiscal year, so the 2005 Form 990 is for the six months from January to June, 2005.
In addition to contributions, Answers in Genesis sells books and media, which account for about $5 million of gross income on an annualized basis. Here's where it gets interesting. The Form 990 reports that AiG purchased $485,565 in books and literature ($970,000 annualized) from New Leaf Publishing Group, whose president Tim Dudley sits on the board—on the audit committee.
A glance at the New Leaf web page shows that its catalog includes books and DVDs about creation vs. evolution, notably ones written by Ken Ham, president of AiG, like the twelve-part DVD series of his Sunday school curriculum, Answers ... with Ken Ham, retailing for $69.99 and not eligible for the usual 20% discount for web purchases.
So, while the Form 990 shows that Mr. Ham receives a salary of $120,000 from AiG (annualized), it's obvious that he's also receiving royalties from his books sold through AiG. But so far as I can tell, there's no requirement that this arrangement need be disclosed.
Another significant aspect of AiG is its nondenominational nature. To me, just as noteworthy as Mr. Ham's slim science credentials—he is trained as a science teacher has an undergraduate degree in applied environmental biology—is his lack of theological training—he just has two honorary degrees, one from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (EIN 54-0946734 Form 990).
AiG had it origins in a ministry started in Adelaide, South Australia in 1977. Starting here, Ken Ham eventually came to the US and there realized the potential for a layperson-based approach to promotion of the biblical view of creation (as opposed to the scientist-based approach). For over a decade, AiG (as it was eventually called) maintained ties with the Australian group, but the two finally separated in 2005, the Australian group now being called Creation Ministries International.
So rather than publishing scientific journals, AiG is using marketing and design borrowed from the world of theme parks to get the message across. And making a good living doing it. Mr. Ham qualifies as an issuepreneur: someone who makes a living for himself promoting a cause, as does Grover Norquist with tax relief and Brent Bozelle with cleaning up television.
The AiG web page confirms that strong marketing research backs up the creation museum. In explaining the location of the museum, AiG notes:
Almost 2/3 of America’s population can drive to Cincinnati in one day (within a 650-mile drive)! In addition to those 185 million Americans, millions of Canadians in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec can also drive here in one day. Most convenient, the museum will be close to I-75, the busiest north/south interstate in America, and for those who might fly here, the Cincinnati Airport is only two exits away.
To this, we can only add that the terminus of I-75 is Orlando, which positions the Creation Museum as a way station attraction for Midwestern families making the pilgrimage to the Walt Disney Company's Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, similar to the role that South of the Border plays on I-95 on the East Coast. I will venture a prediction that billboards are on their way. AiG has already conducted billboard campaigns, notably one using arguments from Genesis to combat racism.
One of the reasons AiG is successful lies in the significant market represented by evangelical Christians with the creationist viewpoint. A 2005 survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (Pew Charitable Trusts EIN 56-2307147 Form 990) found that a bit over a third of US respondents identify themselves as evangelical or born again (which mean different things) and that 70% of people with this identification accept the idea that humans and other living beings have always existed in their present form. Ultimately, it is this core of grassroots support that ensures the success of the Creation Museum.