Thanksgiving in the USA (8)

Friday saw a return to downtown Washington DC to visit another museum. The Newseum is a private location that charges visitors unlike the Smithsonian museums which are free, but it is an absolutely fascinating place that anyone with an interest in current affairs simply must visit. It opened at its present location on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008 and I went there in 2012, but Mike and Laura had never got around to going there, so today the three of us spent most of the day there.

One outside wall carries a carved inscription of the First Amendment: just 45 words that guarantee five freedoms including freedom of the press. It is recommend that visits start in the basement where there is a very short orientation video, a 4D film about investigative journalism, a gallery about the Berlin Wall, and on our visit a temporary exhibition about the FBI’s efforts to combat terrorism and cybercrime. It is suggested that then visitors go to the top floor and work downwards.

Level 6 has an open terrace with a good view of the Capitol plus a display of the front pages of newspapers from each of the 50 states that day and a gallery on news coverage of the Vietnam War. Level 5 recounts the history of news gathering over five centuries and features more than 300 historic front pages from (mostly American) newspapers. This level has five theatres showing short films and I caught works on the origin of the First Amendment, coverage of the civil rights movement, and mistaken and false reporting.

Level 4 includes a moving commemoration of the horror of 9/11 with a timeline of the attacks on the Twin Towers, newspaper front pages on the event from around the world, and the twisted remains of the antenna that stood at the top of the North Tower. Level 3 has a large map of the world colour-coded to show the extent of media freedom in each country, a wall of photographs of reporters, photographers and broadcasters who died in the line of duty, and a gallery covering the impact of radio, television, and the Internet.

Level 2 covers something as light-hearted as First Dogs and something as serious as media ethics plus a (temporary) photographic display of refugees who have found safety in the USA. Level 1 has the most comprehensive collection of Pulitizer Prize-winning photographs ever assembled.

Newseum is a simply wonderful place that underlines so powerfully the need for a free media and the difficulty of reporting accurately and fairly. At any time, a visit would be relevant but, two weeks after the election of Donald Trump who has attacked so harshly so much of the media, it seemed especially vital to be reminded of what is at stake around maintenance of the freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment. In 2012, I spent five hours at the museum; four years later, I was there for another five hours; and I would happily go back for more.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>