By Don Douloff, April 25, 2008
News junkies cheered long and loud when the Newseum opened on April 11 in Washington, D.C., near the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building. Featuring 250,000 sq. ft. of display space, this unique museum blends five centuries of news history with current technology and hands-on exhibits.
Announcing its theme immediately, the building’s exterior features a 74-ft.-high marble engraving of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.
Inside, seven levels of galleries, theatres and visitor services, and a highly interactive environment, take visitors behind the scenes to experience how and why news is made.
Through its 14 main exhibition galleries, the Newseum explores news history, electronic news, photojournalism, world news and how the media have covered major historical events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The largest gallery – built around the museum’s collection of more than 30,000 historic newspapers – traces more than 500 years of news and includes five theatres that explore different themes.
The First Amendment Gallery establishes the modern-day relevance of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Another gallery describes the dangers reporters face around the globe while covering the news, reinforced by dramatic icons – including a bullet-riddled, armor-reinforced pickup truck used by reporters and photographers in the Balkans – illustrating the dangerous conditions in which journalists often work.
Other exhibits display newspaper front pages from around the world (80 in all) and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalism (the largest and most comprehensive collection ever assembled). In a 7,000-sq.-ft. interactive newsroom, visitors can select any of 48 interactive kiosks or experiences, where they can immerse themselves in the many roles required to put together a newscast.
On the meetings side, a conference centre houses 24,000 sq. ft. on two levels, while a flexible presentation space, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater, seats 535. Other spaces within the Newseum’s seven levels of galleries, exhibits and a 90-ft.-high atrium can be rented for daytime and evening events. A three-level restaurant, The Source by Wolfgang Puck, dishes up creative cuisine and, through its catering arm, provides all of the Newseum’s special-event food.