“Make an Ark Encounter of gopherwood, and fill it with sculpted animals and world-class exhibits that will be engaging and educational for believers and non-believers alike. The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.”
Okay, these weren’t the exact instructions my team received, but they aren’t far from the mark.
First, we don’t know what gopherwood was, so we can’t be sure if we followed that instruction.
Second, I wasn’t involved in the actual building of the full-size ark in Williamstown, Kentucky. The fact that it’s still standing testifies to my non-involvement in its construction. However, as part of the design team responsible for developing the exhibits on the ark, I had, and still have, the unique privilege of producing the content for the exhibits.
Working behind the scenes at the design studio is an unbelievable blessing. Like any other job, some days are better than others, but playing a key role in bringing Noah’s Ark to life for millions of visitors to the theme park makes our labors worth the effort. It helps that my coworkers are committed Christians who desire to use their amazing talents to glorify God, edify believers, and reach the lost.
This article will highlight some of the ways our team depicted the story of Noah and his family, their task, and their challenges.
The Ark Encounter exhibits can be divided into two categories: themed spaces and teaching exhibits. Themed spaces are decked out with characters, animals, props, etc. to give guests an idea of what life may have been like on the ark. Teaching exhibits include more content and explain the feasibility of the ark and the trustworthiness of Scripture.
Each teaching exhibit began with a brainstorming session involving the project’s lead designer, the exhibit designer, our lead graphic designer, and me, the content guy. During these meetings we discussed what topics we needed to address in the space and how we wanted to present the material (dioramas, videos, signage, props, etc.).
Afterward, I worked closely with the exhibit designer. While I worked on the content he laid out the floor plan and designed the look and feel of the room(s). This allowed us to determine how much space we would have for signage. Since we rightly anticipated huge crowds, I was forced to keep the wording brief while still addressing the necessary points. The designer then constructed a small model, and we presented it and the content to our ministry’s president, Ken Ham, and to our review board. Upon approval, I sent the content to our graphic design team who took my text and transformed them into works of art on attractive signs. Our fabrication shop worked with the exhibit designer to build the walls, props, and anything else that needed to be in the space.
While the exhibits were being designed, written, and fabricated, the ark itself was being constructed. Due to the enormity and uniqueness of the project and a long, wet winter in Williamstown that year (2016), our team had to rush to install all the exhibits in time for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 5. Pardon the shipbuilding terminology, but it was all hands on deck for the installation process. Even this writer learned how to properly hang signs in the exhibits.
We put in many long hours, but it wasn’t always toilsome. Since I’m quite tall (6’9”), I served as a model for a giant character we decided to put in a diorama depicting some of the violence in the pre-Flood world. To make all the diorama characters appear lifelike, we contracted a company that brought in an array of over seventy cameras that were placed at different levels in a circle. I posed in the middle and with a click of the button, all 70+ cameras fired at once. A computer combined the pictures to create a 3D image, which was then sent to the 3D printer. The figure was then painted and installed in the diorama. So visitors to the Ark can see me as a giant warrior in the pre-Flood world.
(For the record, I was wearing shorts for the shoot, so some of what you see of my backside is artistic license.)
For the Who Was Noah? exhibit, I was instructed to develop a plausible storyline to explain how Noah might have acquired the necessary skills to complete his God-given task. Using the scant details in Scripture, I crafted a story that served as a basis for personal details and props for each of the family members that can be seen in many of the themed spaces.
Beginning with the assumption that God prepares His people to do His work, I set out to give the world a different picture of Noah than what they might have seen in Sunday school and much different than the one from the regrettable 2014 Noah movie. Instead of being a farmer or vintner (which he became after the Flood), I depicted Noah as someone with an interest in woodworking and construction who became a shipbuilder’s apprentice and then worked as a shipbuilder for much of his life. That way, when God tells him to build the Ark, Noah has a good idea how to do it.
When I presented the storyline to others, many of them encouraged me to turn the story into a novel. After a couple years of planning, I coauthored The Remnant Trilogy, which follows Noah on a coming-of-age adventure from his young adult years to the time of the Flood. The third book, Noah: Man of God, is due out next month (May 2018). The series serves as a semi-official backstory for Noah and his family at the Ark Encounter, and visitors to the theme park can see many of the items and animals they read about in the novels.
As content manager for attractions at Answers in Genesis, Tim Chaffey oversees research and writing of content used to develop and explain the many exhibits at both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. Chaffey joined Answers in Genesis in 2010 after serving many years as both a pastor and a science and Bible teacher. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Theological and Biblical Studies, Chaffey completed an M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies, an M.Div., specializing in Apologetics and Theology, and a Th.M. in Church History and Theology.
In addition to his many articles for the Answers in Genesis website, Answers magazine, and Answers Research Journal, Chaffey has written a number of books, including Old-Earth Creationism on Trial, God and Cancer: Finding Hope in the Midst of Life’s Trials, The Truth Chronicles (with Joe Westbrook, books 1–6), Noah: Man of Destiny, Noah: Man of Resolve, and In Defense of Easter: Answering Critical Challenges to the Resurrection of Jesus.
An apologist with a passion for training young people, Chaffey speaks regularly at the Creation Museum, camps, schools, and churches. He specializes in the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus and the creation v. evolution controversy. A cancer survivor, he also shares how that experience grew his faith, showing him even more strongly how the Bible provides the only solution to the questions of suffering and evil in the world.
Chaffey grew up in a Christian home, the middle of five children. Born in California, he was raised primarily in Wisconsin, where he and his wife Casey also lived until moving to Kentucky to join Answers in Genesis in 2010. They have 2 children, Kayla and Judah.