Friday, July 23, 2010

Newseum

Whether a journalist, a history buff or just an average tourist the Newseum, located on 6th and Pennsylvania in downtown Washington, D.C. is a must see. Some exhibits convey a lot of emotion, so much that one even has tissues nearby.

Washington is filled with history, but this museum has so much history stored in it. Through copies of old newspapers, documentaries, and even a 4-D movie the museum documents events all the way back to the first newspapers, before D.C. was the capital.

The museum advises visitors to go to the concourse level, one floor below the entry level. After viewing that floor visitors go on an express, glass elevator to floor 6. My fun began at the concourse.

The first thing I did was watch an introductory film/documentary. In the film they went all the way back to when the government was based in Philadelphia. It talked about how important a free press is to society.


 The first thing I did was watch an introductory film/documentary. In the film they went all the way back to when the government was based in Philadelphia. It talked about how important a free press is to society.

After the documentary I got to spend some time in an exhibit about the fall of communism in Europe. Items on exhibit included a toppled statue of a communist leader. (It was not Saddam Hussein.) Another was a pen used to sign over the Soviet Unions nuclear weapons to Russia.


The biggest exhibit in this area was of the Berlin Wall. They had a small piece for visitors to touch (top left). The information talked about how there was graffiti on the west side of the wall which is still partially visible now. Another part of the exhibit had a large segment of the wall and what appeared to be a guard tower or something; there was a door in this part. The walls were lined with headlines from that period including how people were escaping or died trying.



The FBI exhibit was also located on the concourse level. I found it very interesting. It had information about some of the cases in which the FBI was involved. One of the most interesting to me was the Unabomber, short for Universities and Airlines bomber-- they are the ones he targeted. He wrote a very long letter and told the two papers he sent it to, the Washington Post and New York Times, if they published it, his reign of terror would end.

After considering it and some convincing by the authorities , the Washington Post ran the story. The plan worked and someone recognized information in the story. The bomber was captured in a cabin in Montana. Another case exhibited was that of a cult in Texas. The FBI was in a 51-day standoff before the compound caught fire. The FBI received a lot of criticism.

A lot of other information was available about different agents and cases. I found the previous two to be some of the most interesting, even though it was all interesting.

After visiting the concourse level, I went to floor one. That is where the emotional journey began. The main exhibit here was Pulitzer Prize-winning photos. Some of them were "pretty." Some of them were "funny." Some of them were "frightening," or "disturbing." Others were plain "sad."

Some of the photos almost brought me to tears. Some of the photos I remember seeing were of the World Trade Center on 9/11, victims from the Columbine shooting, and a woman with her arms wrapped around a headstone, crying.

I was unable to stay at that exhibit long. I went on to the 4-D movie. It was an interesting experience with a lot of good information too. Moving seats, special effects and pictures that jump of the screen help tell the story of Journalism. The film is only 15 minutes and unable to cover a lot. Two of the people I remember from the film are Nelly Bly and Edward R. Murrow.

The film shows Bly as she becomes the first female "detective" reporter when she goes undercover at an all female insane asylum to expose what happens there. It showed how they were treated and the conditions of the institution. One scene shows a rat crawling in bed with her. She throws it off and then I jumped as something brushed against my leg.

It showed Edward R. Murrow and his crew as they were the first radio broadcast from a war zone. He stood on top of a building describing exactly what he saw. Planes flew overhead dropping bombs. The sky was lit up with anti aircraft fire.

 After the film, I went back down and caught the elevator to level 6. This area is what I had known the museum for beforehand. Other than a view of the city and a few other exhibits, they have a collection of front page headlines located on this floor.


I walked outside to see the view and briefly skimmed some of the history outside before going back inside to search for an Arkansas newspaper. They only have the major newspapers, unlike the larger list on their website. But I did find the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, along with some larger newspapers and even a few foreign newspapers.

I missed floor five because the staircase I took didn't go to it. So my next stop was the most difficult of all. I spent a lot of time in this area and even found myself in tears on more than one occasion. It was the September 11 exhibit. The wall was full of newspaper front pages from that fateful day. Part of a broadcast antenna located on top of the towers is exhibited. Around it is a time line with photos and stories from reporters.

I went in and watched a film about being a journalist there having to cover the horrific events. Reporters risked their lives to get the story. Many shot photos and video before having to run for their own lives as the towers collapsed. One of the most famous pictures from the disaster is firefighters raising a flag. The reporter did not realize it would be compared so much to a photo taken by Joseph Rosenthal at Iwo Jima, more than 60 years ago.

According to the exhibit, only one on-duty journalist died that day. The photojournalist ran toward the buildings as everyone else was running away. He snapped photos all along the way. His equipment was later recovered. The last photo  was taken with a time-stamp exactly when one of the towers collapsed.

I found my way to the fifth floor and browsed around there for a little while. The most interesting thing was the timeline of newspapers. Three levels of cases along a timeline were in this area. Visitors can pull out a case to see newspapers that are on lower shelves.

Some various books an documents were also displayed in this area. I was able to see books such as Areopigetica.

I found some quotes in the walls before leaving the fifth floor and catching an elevator to the third floor. They were actually a mixture of quotes and headline bloopers. The book was for sale in the gift shop but, I did not thing it was worth 10 dollars with the internet around.

On the third floor I was unable to explore much. It was 3 hours later by this point even though I was moving at a fast pace through the museum. The museum was closing in 30 minutes. I was able to see political cartoons in that area. Again, many were serious, many were offensive, others were funny, and others left me wondering what the artist was trying to convey.

Unfortunately, because I was in on a group ticket, I am unable to return a second day. I really did not get to spend enough time on floor three or any time on floor two. I think the average ticket cost is about $20, and can be used up to two days (check with the information desk). It is well worth it. This blog does little to express how great this museum is.

To see some more pictures, visit my Facebook album.

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