Sunday, June 4, 2017


It's incredible to me that Washington, D.C., can keep adding new museums. I would have thought that between the Smithsonian museums and the historical sites, the city would have hit saturation point years and years ago. However, recent additions to D.C.'s museum roster include the National Museum of the American Indian (2004), the Newseum (2008), and the newest Smithsonian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016). All of them appear to be wildly successful. By the time we tried to get tickets for the African American Museum it was too late, so we opted to visit the Newseum, and it was such a great experience that I've vowed to return to D.C. for the other two new museums and to revisit some of the older ones I saw years ago on previous trips.

Nobody does museums like D.C.

Even the outside of the Newseum is fun. The current front pages of more than 80 newspapers, including a newspaper from each of the fifty states and from many international newspapers, are on display, and the papers are updated every day. No admission fee is required to see these--they are on the public sidewalk. If I worked in this neighborhood, I'd be late for work every morning:

At $24.95/ticket, it isn't cheap to go inside, but after we had experienced the Newseum, Bob and I both thought it was well worth the cost. The Newseum experience begins at the ticket counter in the atrium that houses a suspended news helicopter, a 90-foot-tall screen that shows international headlines, and a communications satellite:

The first exhibit we visited was perhaps the most powerful one for me in the entire museum.
Every Pulitzer Prize winning photo since the award was first given in 1942 is on display. Since 1968, two prizes have been awarded annually, one for breaking news photography and one for feature photography. The most important events in history are recorded in the images in this room, and so many of them were part of my own life. I found myself fighting back tears stemming from a gamut of emotions--sorrow, pain, elation, pride, patriotism, love, anger.

Here is the 2016 winner for Feature Photography, along with some background information:
2016 Feature, "A Child's Despair." Photographed by Jessica Rinaldi of The Boston Globe, May 29, 2016, Oxford, Maine

There appears to have been a tie for News Photography:
2016 Breaking News: "A Perilous Journey." Photographed by Daniel Etter, Tyler Hicks, Mauricio Lima, and Sergey Ponornarev of The New York Times, Nov. 16, 2015, Lesbos, Greece.

2016 Breaking News: "Europe's Refugee Crisis." Photographed by Yannis Behrakis of Reuters, Sept. 10, 2015, Idomeni, Greece.

Imagine 125 photos and stories like these three, and you can understand why I kept getting something in my eyes that made them water.

Another very powerful exhibit is the Berlin Wall exhibit. 
We've seen pieces of the Berlin Wall in quite a few places, including in several Presidential Libraries and in Berlin itself. The Newseum has the largest display of the Wall outside of Germany. They have eight 12-foot-tall concrete sections AND an East German guard tower from Checkpoint Charlie, the best known spot for crossing into and out of East Berlin:

News footage of the coming down of the wall adds a powerful dimension to the exhibit:

It's clear which side was the West and which was the East:

I took this picture in 2011 of a piece of the wall still standing in Berlin. It shows the "death strip" on the East Berlin side and the fence that prevented residents from approaching the Wall. (See this post for more details.)

The Newseum has one of East Germany's three-story guard towers where men with guns watched that death strip for possible escapees:

Wow. Powerful.

Not everything in the Newseum is this haunting and dark. At this point in our visit I needed to visit the Ladies' Room, and what I found there had me giggling for the rest of the day. In fact, I had to check out other bathrooms on other floors to look for new material.  A sign in each bathroom states: "TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO CORRECT DIVINE. Even the best newspapers make mistakes. The flubs on these walls--collected since 1961 by the Columbia Journalism Review--include headlines that don't mean what they say and corrections that admit truly embarrassing errors."

Here is a sampling:

And my most favorite one of all:

Another display focused on the power of other forms of media, including movies and music:

I learned some things about the Village People that I didn't know before.

Time for another break, this time on the balcony, which affords one of the best views of the U.S. Capitol in all of D.C.:

There is a pretty good view of the National Art Gallery too:

The Newseum takes on the charged topic of censorship in music with a timeline giving examples of various controversies in the music world since 1955. Do you remember any of these?

There was a fun display about U.S. Presidents that included the theme songs of their campaigns and the top five songs on their Inauguration Day:

Another VERY powerful exhibit is the 9/11 one, which includes what was left of the communications antenna from the the roof of the World Trade Center:

There is also a gallery of the front pages of newspapers from around the world that were published on September 12th:

A piece of the Pentagon saved from the rubble after the attack there is also included:

A short, poignant film reviews some of the footage and reports as the day unfolded, and includes first-person accounts from reporters and photographers who covered the events that day:

To do the Newseum justice, I think a person needs about a month of eight-hour days in this place:

Another exhibit covers the dangers of being a news reporter. This car had the driver's seat blown out by a bomb in 1976. The reporter sitting in that seat, Don Bowles of the Arizona Republic, had been writing a series of stories on the mafia. He died of his injuries eleven days after this attack:

Another exhibit honors those reporters who are "willing to stand when others will run, who will press on with questions when others have been cowed into silence." Specifically, the Newseum honors those who lost their lives in pursuing a story, and each year more names are added to the list:

Photos of the fallen:

These window shades are actually lists of reporters killed on the job:

This picture of a photographer taking pictures in the middle of a gun battle during the Balkan Wars made my heart stop:

In 2013, my husband and I drove through some of the cities listed on the sign below. Peace has come to the Balkans since the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. We were never shot at as this reporter was. I don't know if he made it out alive or not.

Another exhibit dealt with freedom of the press around the world.  Green areas have the most freedom, then yellow, then red.  Shocking, isn't it?

In the United States, we often think we score at the top of every positive list, but that's not the case with Freedom of the Press, a phrase some of us think we invented in the U.S. Bill of Rights:

Ack! We're going to Turkmenistan later this year!

As this exhibit points out, fewer than one in seven people live in a country where the press is truly free:

A reminder of the source of our freedom, here is a copy of the press that printed the Declaration of Independence:

One room I don't have any pictures of but which we both loved is focused on humor/satire in the news. There was a montage of clips from late night TV, and some of the clips were only a day or two old. We were so impressed. And speaking of freedom of the press, there were several things in that video that were highly critical of President Trump. It's quite incredible to think we live in a country where a museum can censure the President who lives just blocks away and whose government works a few blocks away in the other direction. Wow.

Lest you think EVERYTHING about Trump in the Newseum was negative, here is a sampling of what was available in the gift shop. Get your "Make America Great Again" cap here:

On our way out, we stopped to smile at the First Dogs exhibit. Apparently more than 50 dogs have resided at the White House over the years.

Some of my favorites include Teddy Roosevelt and his St. Bernard Rollo:

FDR and his Scottish terrier Fala:

Richard Nixon and his cocker spaniel Checkers, and Gerald Ford with his golden retriever Liberty:

Ronald Reagan and his bouvier des Flandres, Lucky:

George H. W. Bush and his springer spaniel Millie (and Millie's progeny):

George W. Bush and his English Springer Spaniel Spot, and Bill Clinton with his Labrador Retriever Buddy:

The Obama family with their Portuguese water dogs Bo and Sunny:

If you want to vote for your favorite White House Pup, go to this site sponsored by the Newseum.

A visit to the Newseum is a great way to begin a visit to Washington, D.C. We came out primed with a strong dose of appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States and for the remarkable history of our country.


  1. Yes, Washington is a city of museums. It would be nice to visit at short intervals so you did not get museumed out.

  2. What a great museum! I think Bob has a point-best to not see every museum in one trip. But you've got some great reasons for a return visit.