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D.C. Drama at Newseum
By Michelle Newman, Travel Contributor

So, are you a drama queen looking for some drama? As if Washington doesn't already have enough daily drama - there's the Newseum where you can get a fix of mega-drama. From the building's dramatic exterior with a 74-foot slab of Tennessee marble engraved with the First Amendment to the salvaged antennae from the World Trade Center's North Tower, you'll find lots of drama here.

The Newseum is really a history museum viewed through the "lens" of journalism where visitors can take a look at the big news stories over the last 500 years. An impressive collection of German news books dating from 1526 were the newspapers of their day. With over 8,000 artifacts the Newseum's stunning collection features unique oddities, including O.J. Simpson's suit worn the day he was acquitted of murder, Dear Abby's letter opener, the Unabomber's cabin, the largest segment of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany, and more.


Daniel Pearl's computer and cancelled passport after his brutal murder.
The Journalists' Memorial feels like a sacred space. Names of 2,084 journalists are etched into opaque glass panels honoring those who were killed while reporting news since 1837. Most of the public is oblivious to the incredible danger journalists are subjected to while covering news in a war zone or in some countries where free press is forbidden. News can be a dangerous business. I was astounded and in awe as history was presented through a journalism perspective with gut-wrenching and gory displays. It was the real deal - it wasn't candy coated. Seeing bombed out cars and the Unabomber's cabin was shocking. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck rise and my skin tingle as I stood in gazing at Daniel Pearl's cancelled passport and personal laptop. It was an eerie sensation as headline news came to life right before my eyes.

While it was disturbing - it made me think. Isn't that what good journalism is all about? Isn't it supposed to trigger a reaction? Photojournalist Eddie Adams' quote on the wall of the Pulitzer Gallery sums it up best, "If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that's a good picture."

This private museum is beyond spectacular both architecturally and content wise. The day I visited flocks of folks were glued to the 40' x 22' HD LED screen in the atrium broadcasting Atlantis? lift off. It was a thrilling adrenalin rush watching the final 10 second countdown.

When I asked Media Relations Coordinator, Jonathan Thompson, if I was allowed to take photos in the Newseum, he chuckled and responded "Of course you can, that's what the Newseum is all about - free press."

And, just like our freedom, this spectacular museum didn't come cheap - $450 million of private funds from generous donors made this possible. The donors list reads like a media mogul's who's who list. Major donors include: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Annenberg Foundation, and the New York Times - Ochs-Sulzberger Family, News Corporation, and Bloomberg.


Painful reminder and remmant from 9/11.
While the $21.95 admission ticket price may seem a bit pricey it's worth every penny. The Newseum is so comprehensive that I could easily have spent the entire day there. Free one hour highlight tours are given throughout the day. Jonathan explained there are three categories of visitors: skimmers, swimmers and divers depending upon the amount of time and level of interest.

My brief visit was an intense experience - wildly graphic and visually powerful. Some exhibits are quite disturbing - it's an emotional experience that not even the toughest macho guy would not react to with indifference. The box of Kleenex available right outside of the 911 Theatre comes in handy and kind of says it all.

The Newseum is as close to perfection as possible - no detail is overlooked. Even the fussiest foodie like myself was delighted with the Wolfgang Puck Food Court and the vast selection of delicious signature entrees offered - like roast chicken, homemade soups, a fresh salad bar, gourmet cupcakes, and lots more.

Next time I visit the Newseum I plan on spending a whole day here and, as Jonathan says, I'll be a "diver!"

Text and photos by Michelle Newman