The Newseum

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A large chunk of the Berlin Wall is the first item on display at the Newseum in Washington D.C.

Headlines from Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Detroit and more than a dozen other random US cities line the  sidewalk at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. directly across from the National Gallery of Art.  It’s the first thing visitors see as they make their way inside one of Washington D.C.’s newest and most popular attractions – The Newseum.

On this particular day – the headline is the impending Executive Action by President Obama on illegal immigration.  The tones are all strikingly different depending on what city the news is coming from.   Then there are some that make no mention of it.  The New York Post for example reads: “Gotham City: Batman Testifies At NYC Council”.  Alrighty then.

The seven story building is full of kids on field trips and why not?  If you had the opportunity to learn about history through a book – or seeing it in person, I think you’d also choose the latter.

A large section of the Berlin Wall is the first exhibit you see as you begin your tour of the Newseum.  A few stories higher and you’ll see the actual broadcast antenna that sat on top of the World Trade Center that was mangled and destroyed on September 11th, 2001.   That particular piece is even more compelling as copies of world wide front page headlines from 9/12  cover the entire wall.

The broadcast antenna that sat atop the World Trade Center before September 11th, 2001 – along with copies of front page headlines from around the world on 9/12/01 lining the wall behind it.

 

News changes fast and so do the exhibits here.  We just missed a recent exhibit that featured the movie “Anchorman” starring Will Ferrell.   (Although the gift shop still has plenty of leftover Ron Burgandy quotable items. “You stay classy, Washington D.C.!”)   Jonathan Thompson who handles Media Relations for the Newseum noted while many of the area museums only change their exhibits annually – the Newseum can change its featured exhibits two or three times a year.

Just watching all of the video available inside the various Newseum theaters would take almost a week’s worth of time.   Thompson told us they quickly discovered one of the problems with the early roll out of the museum was that there was simply too much “stuff”.  It’s certainly not a bad problem – but visitors could never see everything in one visit.  Tickets to the Newseum are now good for two consecutive days.

My personal favorite part of the experience was walking along the exhibit of iconic newspaper headlines from the past 500 years.  Everything from the infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” to “Marilyn Monroe Found Dead” are available on nifty pull out display cases for you to read and remember.

As newspapers themselves are becoming less relevant in a digital world – the Newseum also puts focus on the current state of digital news media.  You’ll see the interesting contrast between the early days of news broadcasting which is also represented in display cases with old microphones and other now mostly ancient equipment.

Some of the more peculiar and intriguing items on display range from the suit O.J. Simpson wore the day he was acquitted on national television to the dry erase board used by the late Tim Russert during the 2000 Presidential elections.   Plus, it’s hard to miss the news helicopter dangling from the ceiling that was donated by a Texas television station.

In addition to the massive collection of visual exhibits you can see in person – the Newseum also uses their website to stream performances and discussions they film in an on-site television studio.  Newscaster Tom Brokaw and comedian Jon Stewart were both recent guests.  The website also features the same headlines visitors see as they walk in the front door as well as summaries of exhibits on display since the doors here first opened in 2008.

I talked with Jonathan Thompson, the Newseum’s Public Relations coordinator about why guests need more than just one day to experience everything at the Newseum.  Here’s our chat for Bill On The Road Radio:

 

 

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Bill is a travel journalist, broadcaster and freelance writer based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Bill travels all across the country doing positive stories, highlighting people and places making America great. He's the host of the weekly Rediscover America podcast and author of the new book 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die! Bill enjoys parks, talking to strangers, eating medium-rare steaks, playing Pickleball and telling good jokes.