I purchased a $10 Newseum ticket on Groupon a long time ago because: 1. the Newseum is my favorite D.C. museum; 2. a normal ticket costs $21; 3. do I need any more reasons? I didn’t have a visit planned for the foreseeable future when I purchased it, but I figured I would think of a reason eventually. Of course, when I got the “Remember to use your Groupon” email, I had forgotten to use my Groupon. So, having Mondays free, I rallied this past Monday and headed into D.C. to USE MY GROUPON.
I justified this by thinking I would read on the metro and then at the museum when I tired of exhibits, so I got some schoolwork done as well. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I immediately got caught up in the museum and, next thing I knew, it was closing time. Typical Katherine museum experience.
I have a special connection with the Newseum. If you’ve been reading, you know that I have a background in journalism. It was one of my majors in undergrad, and it led me to freelancing for several newspapers, traveling to South Africa to write stories on poverty/AIDS, co-managing my college newspaper, and interning for a semester in D.C. For a while, I thought journalism was “it” but, as I began applying to journalism grad schools, I was majorly dragging my feet and I realized why: I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was frustrated, fed up, and just plain tired of journalism, and I hadn’t even graduated with my Bachelor’s! I figured this was probably not a good sign, so I switched paths.
But, this blog is not about that. Let’s talk about Opening Day at the Newseum, 2008, as I had the good fortune of being in D.C. the spring the Newseum had its grand opening. Our teachers gave us a free day and my whole program (all 9 of us) trekked to the Newseum to experience it. We were met with an OVERWHELMING crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue. After waiting in line for a bit, we learned that one of the guys had gotten an early admission by saying he was a journalist, as they had been letting in journalists since 6 a.m. Since we were technically journalists, we tried our hand at doing this and succeeded! The museum employee totally knew she probably shouldn’t let us in, but gave us a one over, shook her head, and said “You all seem like good kids. Just this once.”
So that’s how I was able to experience the Newseum almost totally empty and silent for the first 30 minutes before it opened to the public. I think this is why I love the Pulitzer Prize winning photos exhibit so much, because I experienced it before the flocks descended. Plus, we saw white-suit wearing, legen-DARY Tom Wolfe! It was fantastic.
Since then, I’ve been back to the museums three times—two of them this week, as my ticket was good for two days and I wasn’t going to waste that.
So here are 15 reasons why you should add the Newseum to your D.C. experience:
1. It’s ENORMOUS. You could literally spend an entire day there.
2. It has a variety of exhibitis that make it family-friendly and people-friendly in general. You can wander from the Berlin Wall exhibit to the interactive reporter experience to the “History of Journalism” floor, where you’ll find old newspaper clippings, the famous Watergate door, and more.
3. A few of the exhibits change regularly, providing a new exhibit almost every visit. For example, when I went there over the summer, the top-floor exhibit was dedicated to Hurricane Katrina. This time around, it was “Every Four Years,” an exhibit dedicated to presidential races that had bowling pins signed by Obama and SNL memorabilia from the 2008 campaign.
4. PHOTOGRAPHS AND VIDEOS. Oh my goodness, I love this in museums. The Pulitzer Prize winning photographs are amazing and a must-see. They also have a large screen set up on one floor that screens clips from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and SNL’S Weekend Update. Any museum that makes me laugh is A-OK with me.
5. The 9/11 exhibit. No matter how many times you visit this part or how many years pass, it will still make you cry. Trust me: when you watch the video feature they play non-stop, your eyes will at least tear up. This exhibit also features newspaper clippings from 9/12/01, a timeline of the day’s events, and the crushed remains of the North Tower’s antenna—which a kid, this last time, asked his mom if it was a “rocket ship.”
6. SO MANY EXHIBITS! You won’t believe it. And they have an incredibly impressive collection of artifacts, ranging from the aforementioned things to news helicopters, presidential memorabilia, possessions of well-known journalists, to the Uni-Bomber’s cabin. That’s right! It’s crazy. It’s not disappointing, like the CIA Museum.
7. An awesome gift shop. I know this will interest some people. Me included.
8. Amazing views from the two available balconies—the top one provides a clear picture of the Capitol and features a timeline of events that have taken place on Pennsylvania Avenue. The lower balcony has chairs and tables and makes a perfect reading spot—thus the reason I returned a second day.
9. Plenty of staff members.
10. Today’s front newspaper pages, featuring the front pages from a newspaper in every state and various countries around the world. I looked at Memphis’s this last time: both days, the top story was about something drug related. AWESOME.
11. The museum is enormous, and can be confusing if you don’t follow the “Begin here” signs and do your own thing—which, let’s be honest, is what I always do, not because I’m super rebellious, I just have a problem with signs. But, if you really do “Begin here,” the tour starts on the lower floor, then takes you to the top floor before winding all the way back down, and it makes PERFECT SENSE.
12. HUGE CAFETERIA. I’ve never eaten there, but I know that must be a bonus for some people.
13. The museum will totally confirm your faith in journalists, if only for the foreseeable future. Since you’re able to see journalism’s long history, and the good it has done in the past, you’ll almost forgive some of those channels and shows today that call themselves journalists. I’m sorry, but Nancy Grace??
14. It provides what a museum dedicated to news SHOULD provide—the history of news, journalism, and journalists.
15. It’s an incredible learning experience that doesn’t feel like a typical museum or a classroom. That’s how I would sum up the Newseum overall, and what makes it so much fun. You may spend an entire afternoon there, but you won’t leave drained of energy, or feeling as if your brain is fried from reading too many tiny plaques on museum walls.
There you have it, folks. Don’t let the $21 ticket scare you away, or the hoards of school groups that are flooding D.C. this spring for the routine “7th Grade Trip to the Capital” field trip. Just do it, you’ll thank yourself later.