The Newseum

The Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue

We’d seen it from the D.C night tour bus: an imposing modern building on Pennsylvania Avenue with scores of illuminated cases along the sidewalk, each bearing the front page from newspapers around the world. A museum about the news media–hmmm.

Newseum Atrium

That could be interesting or not. It turned out to be very interesting, with spectacularly hi-tech props, dozens of interactive videos, lots of small theaters showing short films, a 4-D theater featuring the careers of Nellie Bly and Edward R. Murrow, and a long film on the failure of the New York Times to adequately report known information about the Holocoaust.

Ted Kaczynski's Cabin

When 9/11 changed the FBI’s public relations stance and closed the FBI Museum, many artifacts, with a decided news slant, were given to the Newseum, from the ladder used in the Lindburgh kidnapping, to the Unabomber’s tiny cabin.

Sections of the Berlin Wall Facing West

Other compelling news artifacts have come to rest here: the communications tower of the World Trade Center, eight panels of the Berlin Wall, along with one of the concrete guard towers that had murderously covered its eastern side. The West side of the wall is covered with graffiti. The East side was painted white to make it easier to see potential escapees at night. Anyone attempting to add graffiti was shot.

Sections of the Berlin Wall Facing East

Adjacent to the wall stood an actual East German guard tower. It felt very strange to look up into it’s sinister ascent (it’s one-storey ladder would be pulled up through a hole when the guard ascended to secure its invulnerability) and then to lean against the tower while watching videos of the Berlin Wall’s history.

Editorial cartoons, immortal sports moments, civil rights history, White House photographers, Pulitzer prize-winning photos, ALL of them, plus a memorial of frosted glass panels bearing the names of every newsperson who ever died while covering a story: all of this is here, as well as two working television news studios, one of which regularly presents Christaine Amanpour’s Sunday morning show.

Along with a suspended news helicopter, the Newseum’s atrium has three glass elevators, each larger than our Airstream, which rise and descend six floors on massive hydraulic pistons. When rented out for posh gala parties, these house the bars (and a very good time is had by all, both high and low).

The elevator will take you to a glorious sixth floor exterior terrace that overlooks Pennsylvania Ave.. Its railing offers a richly illustrated timeline of that Avenue’s history, not to mention one of the best views of the Capitol dome in the city.

The Capitol at the End of Pennsylvania Avenue

So much for merely peering at yellowing newspapers in glass cases! Although there were some pull-out, hermetically sealed, cases housing newspapers that dated back to the 1400s.

This is a fascinating museum. Oh, and its café’s cuisine is by Wolfgang Puck.

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