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August 19, 2009 > It's all news at the Newseum

It's all news at the Newseum

By Miriam G. Mazliach
Photos By Steven Mazliach

Former co-owner of The Washington Post, the late Philip Graham, once said, "Journalism is the first draft of history," and having just returned from a trip to Washington D.C., my family and I were able to experience that firsthand.

The quote is engraved on a wall inside the News History exhibit, on one of the seven floors that make up the Newseum, opened in April of 2008. Dedicated to everything you ever wanted to know about the news five centuries ago up to present day occurrences, this interactive museum lets visitors experience how and why news is reported.

Before entering this modern marvel, visitors first notice the building's unique exterior made of gleaming glass highlighted by a 74-foot-high marble engraving of the First Amendment.

Once through its doors, the interior inspires a feeling of awe. Suspended overhead from the atrium's high ceiling, hangs a news helicopter and satellite. Alongside, a 40 by 22 foot high-definition television screen broadcasts news and interviews.

During our visit, a live broadcast interview of Woodstock organizer, Michael Lang, was taking place, commemorating the musical happening's 40th anniversary. When the studio audience seats filled up, the interview was transmitted onto the screen for all museum attendees to watch.

On each floor of the Newseum, an astounding variety of activities and information awaits in 14 exhibition galleries with artifacts, news history, electronic media, photojournalism, interactive activities, documentaries or films to view, and archival and current newspapers from around the world. In fact, the Newseum receives over 500 newspapers daily - most displayed in transparent glass display cases. Special care is taken with the historic publications to protect their condition.

We spent more than six hours at the Newseum, and there was more to see. This is a selection of our favorite and most memorable exhibits from the Newseum:

The 9/11 Gallery stirs up a lot of emotions; an immense wall covered with front page headlines from newspapers around the U.S. recounting that terrible day. A burned television transmitter, artifacts and a documentary about the event illustrates how the public and media responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographs Gallery depicts vivid and startling images that are caught in time for all to see and remember. Many of the photographs are more recognizable than others, but all pull at heart strings.

In the Berlin Wall Gallery, visitors can stand near 12-foot-tall concrete sections of the original wall in the Berlin Wall Gallery. A three-story guard tower is also part of the display as well as a history of the wall, its final dismantlement and the role media played during that important period of time.

Five hundred years of newspaper front pages are displayed in the News History Gallery, creating a historical perspective of news. We enjoyed pulling out encased trays of newspapers, many of them yellowed with age, reading headlines and the feeling of being transported back to the time these events took place.

My husband and son particularly enjoyed the opportunity to "be a reporter" in the NBC News Interactive Newsroom. Visitors first select a scenario, rehearse and then read from a teleprompter. The results are taped, with an option to purchase as a memento.

"Manhunt: Chasing Lincoln's Killer," a fascinating study of the conspiracy, features 40 artifacts and documents recounting the 12-day hunt for President Lincoln's assassin.

Other interesting exhibits include those on the history and growth of radio, television and internet news, interactive ethics activities, profiles of admired journalists such Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite and a documentary on the "golden age" of television news. "G-Men and Journalists: Top News Stories of the FBI's First Century," features some of the biggest cases from the FBI's first 100 years, including the actual Unabomber's cabin.

Pulliam Family Great Books Gallery contains books and documents illuminating the origins of freedom of the press. The oldest work, a 1475 printing of Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologica," dates back more than 500 years. Among the other great works on display is a 1542 printing of the Magna Carta. All historic documents are preserved in low light but are available to read on interactive monitors.

Situated in an historic part of Washington D.C. and close to the U.S. Capitol building, the interactive and innovative Newseum, is a welcome addition to the list of "must see" locations when visiting our nation's capital. Don't miss it!

Newseum
Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day
555 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W
Washington, D.C.
1-(888) NEWSEUM
www.newseum.org

2009 General Admission Rates:
Adults (19 to 64): $20
Seniors (65 and older), military and students with valid ID: $18
Youth (7 to 18): $13
Children (6 and younger): Free

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