The Newseum

Review

of an Exhibition

by Agustin Baldioli

Published on March 02, 2010, Modified on March 19, 2010

  • Description:

    The moment you see the seven-story, glass and steel building on a prime piece of Pennsylvania Avenue real-estate that is the Newseum, you know this is not your grandpa’s idea of what a museum should be. The $450 million museum was created by, for, and about newsmakers, newshounds, and newsreaders. The Newseum boasts of its 250,000-square-foot museum of news, housing:

    • 35,000 – Total number of historic newspaper front pages in its collection, going back nearly 500 years.
    • 6,214 – Number of artifacts in its collection (excluding newspapers and photographs).
    • 15 theaters,
    • 14 main exhibits,
    • 2 state of the art HD broadcast studios,
    • And much, much, much more

    The Newsuem’s mission is to “educate the public about the value of a free press in a free society and tells the stories of the world’s important events in unique and engaging ways… blend[ing] five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits”. The Newseum does just that. It blends the up- to-the-second journalistic mentality with a hands-on, technological approach to exhibition design to presents a museum experience that blurs the line between the traditional museum and an interactive theme park experience.

    The Story of News exhibit displays original prints of front pages recording some of the most historic events in history. Arranged in chronological order and described as “the entire history of the printed news”, visitors can read the news stories that reported such momentous events as the outbreak of the American Civil War, the sinking of the Titanic, the assassination of President Kennedy, and even the death of Blackbeard the pirate in 1718. The exhibit furthers the discussion of how the press reports history in the making by having numerous artifacts and memorabilia used by journalist in their quest for the truth, with the door lead to the Watergate scandal as its most famous example.

    The Berlin Wall gallery proudly displays eight 12-foot-high sections of the Berlin Wall and a three-story East German guard tower. Impressive artifacts on there own, but the real lesson presented is how the power of a free press change the world by bring an end of the oppression in Eastern Europe. The Wall could not impede the radio broadcasts from the Allied section of Berlin, and it spreading the ideals of freedom and democracy. In the end, the exhibit is all about how the press played a leading role in the opening of the boarders between East and West, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the fall of Communism.

    The Newseum’s dedication to technology also plays a large part in its drive to educate its public in unique ways. The incorporation of technology as a teaching tool can best be seen in the museum’s Ethics Center. While the topic of ethics is prominent in the news gathering community, it might be in so ingrained in the minds of its visitors. That is why the Newseum developed the exhibit. The center’s focal piece is the ethic table where visitors wave their hands over the table’s infrared screen to control tiny avatars and answer questions on journalistic morals. It is one of only three such high tech motion-sensing tables in the entire world. In addition, the ethics center has interactive touch-screen kiosks loaded with engaging games that illustrate some of the hard choices journalist have to make in their line of work.

    The ethics center is just one example of why the Newseum claims to be “the world’s most interactive museum.” Its commitment to providing its guest with unique and engaging experiences can also be seen in its 4-D film experience called "I-Witness: A 4-D Time Travel Adventure”. Not satisfied with a basic video display, the Annenberg Theater also includes seat that shake, wind machines, and other sensory special effect to further add to the excitement of a 3-D movie recreation of “some of the most dramatic events in journalism history”.

    The Newseum commitment to technology is where it assaults the line between the long-established educational museum environment and the high tech world of an interactive theme park. No mater on what side of that line you stand on, the Newseum achieves it mission to educate its visitors about the history of journalism, the power of the truth, those who risk their lives for the dissemination of reliable information, and the need for freedom of speech and a free press through highly engaging, informative, and thought provoking ways.


    All figures, pictures, and quotes courtesy of the Newseum Website: http://www.newseum.org *

Latest Comments (2)

speachless

by Patricia Guerrero knight - March 19, 2010

Wow……. great review. Thank you!

Going beyond exhibitions

by Patrick Fredrickson - April 25, 2013

It’s been a few years since I visited, but a couple of items continue to remind me of tools museum often overlook.
Video interviews of the major donors are a great “behind the scenes” moment. Using movies to share the history of news in our society are effective. Shown in a theater environment, they remind us good storytelling can be separated from artifacts while still supporting and reaffirming the message. The working news studios and window into the maintainence room for the digital technologies offers more insight into what is needed to keep information accessible to the public.

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