A dynamic, engaging, interactive museum of news that allows visitors to experience the stories behind the news
As the guide ushered us, a group of journalists, into the Newseum, he said: “You may have seen many museums but you will never forget this one as this is about your profession.” The riveting museum in Washington DC did indeed leave an enduring impression on me.
The Newseum is a fascinating monument to news and events around the world that made national and international headlines. It also documents and pays tribute to journalists who have risked their lives in the process of collecting information and creating news stories. The museum authorities told us that this is an institution that is proud to protect, promote and defend the freedom of expression.
As a testament to its popularity, the Newseum has received over 7 million visitors since it opened its doors in 2008! Of course, its prime location also
contributes to the footfall – the steel-and-glass building of the Newseum is on the historic Pennsylvania Avenue between the United States Capitol and the White House. Moreover, it is a prestigious venue for conferences, weddings, film premieres and special events. The museum also goes beyond just displays – it offers workshops, on-site classes and a free online learning platform that together reach hundreds of thousands of students and teachers, increasing the number of people who engage with the museum.
Scale and Scope
The seven-level museum with 250,000 sq ft of floor space (including 15 galleries and 15 theatres) is packed with engrossing exhibits. It is as comprehensive as possible. A large area is devoted to the print media and, understandably, to news events from the USA, with the country’s publications getting centre stage. However, significant world events and magazines and newspapers in languages from around the world are given their due. Besides French, Spanish, etc the museum even has displays with publications in Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam! Every day, more than 700 newspapers submit digital images of their front pages to the Newseum and 80 are then selected for display.
Apart from the print media, the museum traces the evolution of electronic communication, beginning with the arrival and growth of radio and television and traces how they acquired such tremendous reach and influence. It also explores the rise of the Internet and other current and emerging technologies. The museum explains, for example, how satellites have changed the way in which news is gathered and disseminated.
There is a small section of the Berlin Wall on display; its fall was an epochal event in world history. Another fascinating exhibit is the Time Line, an interactive archive of newspapers and magazines, some of them centuries old. You’ll pause longer at some galleries than others.
There is a section that reveals the perils that journalists face especially those reporting from war-zones or disaster areas or during riots. The area is dedicated to journalists who have died in the line of duty while documenting the news. The mangled car in which investigative journalist Don Bolles was killed when a bomb was placed under it is also there. A glass case displays the two half-shattered cameras and the images recovered from them, which belonged to Bill Biggart who ran towards the twin towers to photograph the events of the 9/11 tragedy in New York. Another corner has a bullet-ridden car from the violence in Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
One of the biggest draws at this museum is the Interactive Newsroom where visitors get to play the role of reporters, anchors and editors. It gives real insight into what it takes to put a news story together. It is because of displays such as this that the Newseum claims to be one the most interactive and interesting museums in the world. By the end of the tour, we agreed wholeheartedly.
Words: Aruna Chandaraju