I spent yesterday, a gorgeous and sunny day to close out the month of May, mostly indoors. I was at the Newseum in Washington D.C. and I can’t think of a better way to have spent that time. I’d heard that it was a great museum but I had no idea how spectacular it is (and I’ve been to a lot of museums!). Since news is one of the recording devices of history, and I know you love history, I thought I’d share my visit with you, in words and pictures. Bonus: I ran into several 16th-century pieces! So come along with me…*
The 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which includes freedom of the press, is carved into a giant tablet on the front face of the building (above). This looks amazing! Also outside are the day’s front pages from all 50 states, behind glass. So even if you aren’t going inside, you can enjoy the news from all over the country.
The museum suggests visitors start on the concourse level, then take the glass elevator to the 6th (top) floor and work their way down. I cheated a bit by wedging the impressive 4-D movie between those two things, but I think it worked out well. So on the concourse level you’ve got segments of the Berlin Wall, as well as the lookout tower where guards could cosy up until it was time to shoot dissenters. I don’t have to tell you how chilling this area is.
The concourse level also houses the FBI exhibit, which will surprise and delight (?) anyone interested in organized crime, the Lindbergh Baby case, and the Unabomber. Also in the FBI exhibit is one of two 9/11 segments in the museum. This one has some engines from a doomed plane as well as a “PUSH” signfrom a WTC door.
We also see the seating chart for American Airlines flight #11, so we know where the hijackers were sitting,
as well as the instructions for the terrorists for “The Last Day.”
Right about then I was thinking, “9/11: It’s all coming back to me now. And that kinda sucks.” Still, I think it’s important that these things are documented, for us and for future generations. After all, think about the effect when we, for example, view an execution block at the Tower of London.
Let’s lighten the mood for a sec with a picture of the comics wall:
Moving right along , the 4-D movie cannot be missed but I don’t want to ruin it for you by giving away further tidbits. Nearby are actual front pages from the U.S. Civil War. Or as they call it in the South (as I found when I lived in Northwest Florida) “the War of Northern Aggression.” Reminds me of that whole “Bloody Mary vs. Gloriana” issue when we consider how Ireland viewed the two queens. Anyhoo… I do love the “What If the Civil War Were Tweeted?” display; what a great concept!
So up, up, up in the glass elevator to the 6th floor observation deck. Holy acrophobia! on both counts. But what a view from that deck!
After you’ve come in from the deck, there is a large gallery of today’s front pages from around the world but somehow I missed it! because I was beckoned to the “Every Four Years” exhibitjust inside the doors, and then onward to the News History hall. This.Is.Insane. Front pages of newspapers/newsbooks from the present time allll the way back to the 1400s. Yes. Really. Have a look at this German newsbook praising England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada:
Every major front page you can think of is here: Charles I’s execution, The Boston Tea Party, America’s independence, Jack the Ripper, the Titanic sinking, Edward VIII’s abdication, Kennedy’s assassination, the beginning of World War II, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, you name it.
In the “Great Books” case there is the “Index Librorum Prohibitorum,” one of the first official acts of censorship of printed books in the Western world. It was a response to the printing press & Protestant Reformation’s snub at papal authority. The 1542 English translation of the Magna Carta is in the same case:
At this point I needed to step it up in order to make my mid-afternoon Metro ride, so after having spent over an hour in this Hall of Very Old News Documents, I made my way down another level. And hey, more 9/11 memories. Oh dear God. So here’s the mangled antenna from the North Tower,
and a ginormous wall covered with front pages from that day.
The Five Freedoms Walkway and the First Amendment Gallery are also on this floor.
I wrap it up at the Journalists Memorial, the Pulitzer Prize photographs, and the digital media area. I wish I could have spent more time on these lower floors, but I’ll be back. I plan to take my kids (ages 10 and 9) this summer! If you are considering bringing children, do note there are some sensitive and disturbing images, but there are also lots of fun interactive exhibits they will just love, as well as all the educational opportunities, of course.
There is a restaurant on site but also a casual food court, both featuring foods by Wolfgang Puck. I opted to have my lunch at the food court, and enjoyed my chicken and penne pasta with lots of salad and fruit, and a glass of merlot, just across the room from sections of the Berlin Wall. Ah, culture!
* All photos are my own.