Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Check out the Newseum in Washington, DC: It’s Well Worth the Price of Admission

Though this space is intended for parenting advice for preschoolers, I have to share a wonderful day I had yesterday at the Newseum in Washington DC, with hopes you’ll have a chance to check it out too. This is not a place to bring your preschoolers, though I think kids in elementary school and above would enjoy it. My college aged kids loved it. There are lots of interactive displays and a couple of fabulous movies, including one in 4D.

The Newseum is located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. and my GPS took me down I-95 toward Virginia and then back up C Street. It was a traffic-free, very easy ride. There are two pay parking lots at 6th and C which cost $20 each.

Though most of the museums in Washington are free, this one is well worth the $20 fee ($18 for students.) Plan to spend at least four hours there. There’s a cafeteria, but you can also get your hand stamped so you can leave for lunch and come back.

Start at the bottom floor and work your way up. It’s easy to get lost in what you’re viewing but pace yourself so you don’t miss anything. The Concourse Level leads you to the 4D movie which is about 15 minutes and provides a great history of journalism. The fourth dimension consists of seats that move (they don’t move much) and some surprises that I won’t tell cause I don’t want to spoil it. That floor also contains a cool G-Men and Journalists exhibit, part of the Berlin Wall, a Learning Center and Sports theater. The sports theater is a must. The movie presents a history of sports journalism with some fabulous clips that you will absolutely remember.

Next, walk upstairs to the first floor where the highlight is the incredible wall of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs. I could have spent an hour here alone. Bring a tissue – some of the memories might move you to tears. On this floor you can also find an Annenberg Theater and Great Hall of News.

Level 2 has an Interactive Newsroom and an attendant will help you shoot a clip. There are many interactive tv’s and an Ethics Center.

Level 3 contains two real studios where the ABC show This Week with George Stephanopoulos is produced, and other media experts give talks. There is also a newsroom TV studio and info on Edward R. Murrow, as well as a Journalists Memorial and display of editorial cartoons.

Next up on level 4 is an incredibly moving 9/11 gallery which features probably a hundred newspapers from around the world reporting the World Trade Center attacks. There is also a video of interviews with journalists who describe their experiences reporting that day’s news. Another good place for tissues. There is also a First Dogs exhibit (though I skipped this one) and a First Amendment Gallery. A fascinating picture display of Woodstock includes pictures found in the basement of a kid who was in high school at the time, and covered the event for his school paper.

Walk upstairs to level 5 to see a very cool Woodstock movie from the concert event 40years ago. There is also a huge gallery that includes 500 years of journalistic history as well as a replica of a news satellite.

The top floor has an interesting Lincoln exhibit which focuses on the hunt for James Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s killer. There are also front pages from newspapers from every state, which differ from the ones outside the museum. An interesting pictorial display called Photobama showes photos from the inauguration. Step outside on the terrace for an incredible view of DC, including the Capitol.

I’m sure I’ve left some things out, and some of the exhibits change. In fact, there was already a display about Don Hewitt who passed away only a week or so ago. One display showed four newspapers that are now completely defunct. It saddens me to think that one day I might not be able to eat breakfast with a newspaper in hand. At least the Newseum will be there to chronicle the rich history we've enjoyed in news.

I hope you enjoy your experience there as much as I did!

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