At the end of the year, the Newseum—one of Washington D.C.’s finest museums—will close its doors.
The latest iteration of the Newseum opened in 2008 on Pennsylvania Avenue, a seven-level, interactive look at the history, modern impact and cultural importance of news in all its forms. According to the Newseum’s website, the mission of the Newseum is “to increase public understanding of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.” More than ever, the Newseum feels essential in today’s news climate, and it’s a shame to see it go.
While the spirit of the Newseum will live on through online work and various public programs, there’s plenty of time to see one of the most fascinating exhibits in the area in its last month.
In much the way that news is ever-changing, so is the Newseum, which has been constantly updated to keep up with the times. Despite closing Dec. 31, the Newseum is still keeping its exhibits up-to-date, even referencing such current issues as LeBron James’ comments on the NBA–China dispute.
But it’s the interactivity of the Newseum that makes it more than the typical museum. At the NBC News Interactive Newsroom, visitors can test out their on-camera skills with the Be a TV Reporter stations. After choosing a background, potential video journalists can read the news via teleprompter and see how they look on camera.
Throughout the exhibits are interactive screens with games that test the visitor on what they’ve learned, be it quizzes on First Amendment rights or how one would deal with various news issues of the day. One of the Newseum’s most tremendous exhibits is its News Corporation News History Gallery, which uses hundreds of newspapers and artifacts to tell the history of news since 1492. With touch screens, users can research any number of journalists and news topics. An entire day could be spent simply digging into the treasures of this single exhibit.
And that is just one of the many ways that the Newseum chronicles the changing times through engrossing exhibits. Right after entering the building, you see the emotionally moving Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery, which features every winning photograph since 1942. Interactive screens allow visitors to scroll through a multitude of photos and hours of interviews for a more in-depth look at the award-winning images. The Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery shows the history of technology over the years and how new ways of spreading information have changed the world. There’s even a “First Dogs” exhibit, presenting the pets that have lived in the White House since George Washington.
Also awe-inspiring are exhibits that feature one-of-a-kind historical items that shouldn’t be missed. The Berlin Wall Gallery centers around eight massive pieces of the wall, as well as a three-story East German guard tower, in an exhibit that discusses how news moved from one side of the wall to the other. The Inside Today’s FBI section focuses on how the FBI fights terrorism, and includes the 9/11 hijackers’ car and the actual Unabomber’s cabin. The most moving segment of the museum, the 9/11 Gallery, is centered around the broadcast tower that stood on top of the World Trade Center. The gallery includes video reports from that day, as well as a massive wall covered in newspaper front pages from around the world, showing the varied ways the events of Sept. 11, 2001, were covered.
While the Newseum is incredibly informative, it’s also one of the most fun museums in D.C. The “Seriously Funny: From the Desk of ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ ” exhibition showcases Stewart’s real desk from “The Daily Show,” which was donated after the host retired from the show. This focus on satire news has plenty for fans of Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, John Oliver and Samantha Bee, and even has a section focused on Stewart and Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity, which occurred only a few blocks away. While the Newseum has plenty of theaters and movies to watch throughout, The Robert H. and Clarice Smith Big Screen Theater is by far the most impressive. The 100-foot-wide video wall plays movies in a presentation unlike any other, as engaging films are shown as large as life. But maybe the most breathtaking aspect of the Newseum might be the Greenspun Family Terrace, which gives a gorgeous view of Pennsylvania Avenue, while also explaining the importance of that particular street over the centuries.
With its interactivity, immense resources and fun, informative exhibits, the Newseum shouldn’t be missed before it also becomes part of history.