Over Thanksgiving, I took my three kids to Washington D.C. to meet up with my sisters and their families for the holidays. Altogether, there were twelve of us: five parents and seven kids ages 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 20 and 21 and only two of the kids are girls. I mention this to highlight diversity for a point: everyone knows it’s difficult enough for people of the SAME age and sex to agree on ‘something to do together,’ so imagine the challenge of getting this highly diversified group to agree on ‘something to do together?’
Considering we were in the nation’s capitol, we had planned a few educational, yet fun, activities and outings; the kids balked at most of them, that is, until Uncle Chris stepped in. (Pssst: oh by the way, he’s an FBI Agent.) We hadn’t considered the power of Cool Points in getting the kids to want to do anything, but apparently—duh—being a Special Agent ranks as Super Ultra Cool on the Cool Points Quotient Scale. So all Uncle Chris had to do was casually bring up the Newseum idea and suddenly there was a spark (albeit faint at first) of interest. So, he threw on some fuel:
“They have an exhibit called G-Men or something like that,” he began. “I heard an FBI Task Force hauled in the Unabomber’s cabin for display. They also have the gun and electric chair from the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapper…plus some spy-stuff is there if you wanna see that kind of stuff.” Done deal.
Now about The Newseum: don’t let the “seum” part fool you. Granted, the place IS like a museum in that it displays items of historical value and significance—but the similarity stops there. It’s a 250,000-square-foot experience, it’s imaginative and inspirational. The way they go about sharing their treasures is thoroughly thought-provoking, even moving. It truly is, as their Home Page touts, “an experience like no other.”
The Newseum manages to merge five vastly different centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and interactive exhibits. It features 14 galleries and 15 theaters, spread throughout seven floors. It it allows visitors to “go behind the scenes” so they can really understand how and why news is made…and its importance and impact on our daily lives.
What my family and I were amazed about is that, at least for the moment, it felt like–whatever the event, whatever the story–we were there. Through the eyes of photographers, the words of journalists, the sounds of radio or television broadcasts, combined with the Newseum’s larger-than-life, magnificent multimedia surroundings–WE were virtually transported to those places and times–some dreadful, some magical. But we got to participate, be connected, empathize.
I watched my kids’ expressions as they took in the walls of images, video and artifacts from the 9/11 Gallery; their eyes reflected myriad emotions: shock, pain, anger, sadness, fear. They moved slowly from one room to the next, utterly speechless, respectfully absorbing the tragedy recorded in front of them. They fought back tears throughout, but couldn’t hold back when they watched the video story on Bill Biggart—a photojournalist who died covering the attacks (he’s the man who was going toward the Twin Towers instead of away from them). It struck them that they were able to ‘be at the scene of 9/11’ and experience this moment in history through his very eyes, because of this extraordinary man. A passionate husband and father, he made his living telling stories through his pictures. Yet the cosmos poetically reversed the order on 9/11: his pictures told his final story. He took his last shot at 10:28:24AM September 11, 2001.
I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but I think The Newseum’s ability to create an impactful, engaging and emotionally captivating experience for kids and adults of all ages is something that deserves some major Cool Points.
List of the Top 10 Things to See at the Newseum (Taken directly from The Newseum.org website):
1. Berlin Wall Gallery
Features eight 12-foot-high concrete sections of the original wall, the largest display outside of Germany. “Most impressed with Berlin Wall. That alone [was] worth 20 bucks.” — Mary, Washington, D.C.
2. 9/11 Gallery sponsored by Comcast: Explores the horrendous events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the challenges journalists faced chronicling an attack on America. “Thank you for the 9/11 Gallery. I was an eyewitness, and it was very emotional for me.” — Barry, New York, N.Y.
3. Watergate Door The News Corporation News History Gallery features the taped door that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. “My favorite artifacts are those from reporters who have covered famous events.” — Stacey Federoff, Pittsburgh, PA
4. Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery Features the most comprehensive collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs ever assembled. “Especially enjoyed the Pulitzer Prize-winning photos.” — Fountain, Stamford, Conn.
5. I-Witness: A 4-D Time Travel Adventure A 3-D film with fourth-dimension special effects that recreates some of the most dramatic events in journalism history. The 4-D movie was the most intriguing film I have ever experienced.” — Glibby, Brooklyn, N.Y.
6. The Unabomber’s Cabin Ted Kaczynski’s cabin is one of 200 artifacts featured in “G-Men and Journalists: Top News Stories of the FBI’s First Century.” “I really enjoyed the G-Men and Journalists exhibit!” — Roshunda, Los Angeles, Calif.
7. Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery An interactive multimedia timeline traces the evolution of broadcast and digital news. “I am an Internet news junkie. This museum is awesome!” — Preston, Gadsden, Ala.
8. NBC News Interactive Newsroom The Interactive Newsroom gives visitors a chance to play the role of a reporter or photographer. “Great interactive technology. This is a blueprint for other museums.” — Pat, New York
9. The Knight Studios The Knight Studio and Knight Studio on Pennsylvania Avenue have hosted numerous local and national broadcasts. “I had the chance to see an NPR taping. It was very exciting to be a part of history in the making.” — Kellie, Maryland
10. Greenspun Family Terrace This terrace offers a panoramic view of one of the most famous streets in the United States. “Super views of the Capitol and D.C. monuments. Makes you want to come back.” — S. Dhawlikar, Holmdel, N.J.
I was also intrigued with The Newseum’s Scholarship Programs, available through the FREEDOM FORUM: Diversity Institute. Check the website to learn more.