D.C.'s Newseum hawks much more than the headlines

Free things
– Smithsonian museums
– Capitol tours
– Holocaust Museum
– Monuments
– Many government buildings (check ahead)

Info Web sites
– www.washington.org
– www.thedistrict.org
– www.culturaltourismdc.org

The Newseum
– Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day
– Tickets – Adults (19-64) $20; seniors, military, students $18; youth (7-18) $13; children (6-under) free.
– 555 Pennsylvania Ave.
– Info – www.newseum.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – If you love this country’s history, you’ll love Washington, D.C.
And if you love history, you’ll love one of its newest, and certainly most interactive showpieces, The Newseum on storied Pennsylvania Avenue, in sight of our nation’s Capitol.
You’ve probably never looked at America or the world through this fascinating lens – how world events are chronicled through time by the news, and how important freedom of the press is to freedom itself.
The Newseum is six soaring glass stories, marked dramatically by the stone-engraved 45 words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom or speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
That may sound a little stodgy in today’s fast-moving environment, but inside is layer after layer of historic video presentations, interactive computers, landmark newspaper front pages and other historic material about news and the people who made it and covered it.
It’s history come alive.
At The Newseum’s center is a cavernous atrium, where hang a replica of the first TV news satellite and a news helicopter, flanking a massive screen showing broadcasts from the latest news headlines or events.
It’s where ABC broadcasts its Sunday “This Week” with George Stephanopoulas. It’s where you can see a large span of the Berlin Wall, relive great moments in sports history, try your hand at being a TV reporter or eat a snack catered by iconic chef Wolfgang Puck.
Memorial comic strips, Pulitzer Prize photographs and today’s front pages from throughout the world await your curiosity.
The Newseum has its Mississippi connection in visionary Freedom Forum CEO Charles Overby, who grew up in Jackson, went to the University of Mississippi and is the facility’s guiding force from inception until today.
Overby’s sixth-floor office occupies the Capitol-facing corner and overlooks an inspiring Washington skyline of museums and monuments.
The entire complex includes swanky apartments and Puck’s “The Source,” one of this political town’s favorite eating places and watering holes.
* * *
You’ll enter The Newseum on the ground level and take yourself one floor down for an orientation documentary. You’ll learn about the history of news and of some of its most significant events, which were chronicled vividly in video.
It’s an emotional work and stirs up in you an understanding of why the free coverage of events is so important.
From there, you’ll see an awesome display about the Berlin Wall and a colorful expanse of that structure, which kept so many imprisoned from freedom until its fall in 1989.
Take one of several massive glass elevators to the top floor, where you, too, can admire the skyline and Capitol from Washington’s most popular balconies.
Once you’ve soaked up that scenery, return inside and start your walk around each floor, witnessing newsmaking history in videos, historic documents, photographs and much more.
You’ll soon realize what a brilliant bit of design and planning went into its layout – small rooms, large rooms, theaters, interactive computers, places to sit and watch, places to sit and reflect.
Among the fascinating regular features of history are special exhibits. Right now, in observance of President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthdate, there’s a marvelous exhibit on the details about the capture of Lincoln’s assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, and his confederates.
* * *
The Newseum is one of those places you’ll want to keep coming back to.
Interested grownups can spend hours and hours, carefully looking at scores of front pages from archival newspapers, heralding events from early printed civilization to modern times.
If you’ve got the kids with you, plan to work it at their paces and then come back later by yourself.
You’ll even see a display about the Hattiesburg-American reporter whose tape recorder was ordered confiscated and erased by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. There’s her press pass and the recorder.
And the Biloxi Sun Herald’s dramatic front page after Katrina struck in 2003.
Perhaps some of the most moving presentations are about tragedies and their coverage – from the car-bomb murder of Arizona reporter Don Bolles to the shocked coverage of newspapers throughout the world of the 9/11 crashes.
At the 9/11 exhibit, you’ll see the twisted metal frame of an Associated Press radio tower, which stood atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center when it and its sister structure collapsed that fateful day in 2001.
It’s all not to be missed on your next visit.
* * *
Washington’s cultural offerings are immense.
They also are easy to get to, and many of them are free.
If you’ve never been, start your day out with a best-sights doubledecker bus tour. For about $30, you can ride and get off and on at designated stops.
The tickets are good for two days, so you might want to just ride and look at everything on your first go-round. Then, consider where you want to stop on your second circuit.
The Smithsonian, which is a collection of museums, offers everything from the Wright Brothers’ Kittyhawk airplane to the Hope Diamond. Seeing all that can take days.
Then there’s the Holocaust Memorial Museum just off the Washington Mall. Despite the thousands of visitors every day, it is a place of deep silences and reminders of the horror man can inflict upon man. It’s one of the free stops recommended, but go early for passes to tour the multi-story museum.
The national monuments are at least a day all unto themselves – from Arlington Cemetery across the Potomac to the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials to the Washington Monument, tributes to soldiers of foreign wars and other great men and women. There’s even a statue to John Ericsson, who invented the ship propeller and incorporated the landmark device into his design for the Civil War ironclad the Monitor.
The options are myriad from shopping and dining in quaint Georgetown to famed art galleries and a walking tour along Embassy Row off Dupont Circle.
Baseball lovers have the Nationals. Football lovers have the Redskins.
Plan six months ahead if you yearn to tour the White House. Contact your U.S. representative or senator, a requisite to make that happen.
Whatever you do, organize your D.C. trip into feasible pieces. Do first what your heart most desires, then add whatever else you have time for.
Bring comfortable shoes, a light jacket even in summertime and an umbrella. Change your money into numerous $5 bills for tips and subway tickets.
The convenient Metro subway will take you nearly everywhere or within a short distance of what you want to do or see. Just get a map and acquaint yourself with how to use it. It’s a little intimidating at first, but after a few times, you’re a pro.
And don’t be disappointed if you can’t get everything done.
It’s a tourism trick to get you back again.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.


Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio