News from the Newseum
This museum in Washington DC is not one of the free museums in the capital, but I think it’s worth the ticket price: You could spend all day in there and still not see everything, plus your ticket gives you entrance the following day too.
This is a huge museum, on 6 levels above a basement concourse. Level I has an open atrium to the roof, and each level runs off the atrium corridors and connecting walkways. The basement concourse has a large café, plus changing special exhibits and a number of movie theaters. I watched a movie on the reason for and history of the First Amendment to the US Constitution—the importance of the 5 Freedoms, including Freedom of the Press.
The different levels have all kinds of exhibits, all relating to the news industry in all its various forms, with many videos and movies, interactive activities, visual information boards, huge monitors etc.
What grabs your attention most? What is most interesting? Most enjoyable? Well, it depends on your interest I think. For me, the idea of truth in the media is very important, and the examples of times when reporters have tried (and succeeded) in adhering to that principle are really interesting. This is linked to the history of journalism and news reporting, to graphic—and often heart-rending—photojournalism, and the memorial to those journalists who’ve lost their lives while doing their jobs and what they needed to do. Also interesting is the history of the news industry with many examples of old newspapers, front pages, and old TV news footage.
Many exhibits in the museum stand out. The Berlin Wall—actual pieces of it—is a sobering reminder of what life can be like if one is not free. This concept is linked to the huge map, on another level, showing which countries have freedom of the press and which don’t.
The 9/11 exhibit is gut-wrenching, especially for all those who watched that footage on that fateful day, watched it over, and over. For me, it was interesting to see the top piece of the North Tower of the World Trade Center—the piece that was part of a satellite transmitter—in such a tangled mess. Unknown to me before, are the amazing pictures taken by the photographer—Bill Biggart— who ran TOWARD the collapsing buildings when everyone else was running away and who lost his life in the process. His cameras were later found in the rubble and most of the photographs were salvaged.
Also note the exhibit on the changing face of the news industry. People still want and need the news, but it is being delivered in different ways. Right now, paper newspapers seem to be in the most trouble, in the biggest state of flux. Internet and mobile phones, plus social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, have changed the way many people think and act, so those delivering the news have to change accordingly.
I also loved the exhibit on the top outside balcony-terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue about Pennsylvania Avenue, America’s “Main Street”: its importance in American history and the history of Washington DC; its development and change over time; the buildings along it and how they have changed and/or changed owners; special events along it, including marches, parades, processions, protests; and special “firsts”, such as the first presidential funeral procession, the first president to walk along it after Inauguration.
It’s also a great idea that the Newseum puts up copies of many newspaper front pages every day—some outside the museum for all to see and share, and others inside. So, the idea of keeping the world informed is strong.
A fun exhibit on at the moment is on the First Dogs! Also interesting is one on Woodstock and the role of music media in covering that event 40 years ago, and another on the importance of comics and cartoons as a way of passing on certain information. In the basement level there was a special exhibit on Sports Photography and coverage, and one on the history of the FBI, neither of which I had time to go to.
The day I was there many school groups were visiting (they get in free), but it also seemed busy generally, so I guess people still visit even though they have to pay.
A large shop offers many interesting items. I bought a fun book on newspaper headline bloopers, some absolutely hilarious and almost unbelievable.
Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington DC 20001.
Tel: 1-888-NEWSEUM, www.newseum.org
Adult entrance was $21.15 ($19.95+tax)