The Newseum wears every dollar of the $450 million it took to create. Opened in its new location in April 2008, moved from its former location across the Potomac in Rosslyn, it makes good use of technology and clever exhibit tricks.
And its location certainly wasn’t cheap. It occupies a fantastic spot right on Pennsylvania Avenue, right next to the Canadian Embassy, with unobstructed views of the US Capitol Building. Despite its relatively steep admission price–at least by Washington standards–it has established itself as one of the city’s most popular attractions.
It’s also a functional space. There’s a lot of room that can be repurposed as event space–it’s a favorite venue for the Washington DC fundraising industry–and it includes a fully functional TV studio that is currently used for ABC’s Sunday morning program “This Week.”
The Newseum is a celebration and defence of one of the five fundamental freedoms included in the First Amendment of the American Constitution: the freedom of the press. Run by a non-profit but mostly funded by mainstream media, it puts heavy emphasis on the press’s mandate for talking truth to power.
As you would expect for a museum focusing on information delivered by the written and spoken word, most of the exhibits in the Newseum are wordy. But there are some big artifacts like a news helicopter and communications satellite dangling high above the main entrance hall, a mobile studio truck, microphones used by Edward Murrow and President Roosevelt, OJ Simpson’s suit, and first generation computers and digital cameras used by reporters and photojournalists. And occupying pride of place on the lower level is a large section of the Berlin Wall, replete with one of the Wall’s guard towers. There’s also a twisted section of one of the Twin Towers felled in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But it’s not all about words. There’s some great space devoted to photojournalism. A permanent exhibit showcases every photograph awarded the Pulitzer Prize. And there are temporary exhibits on things like sports photography or photographs of the year. So it’s a great place to go to see some superb photography on display.
Photographer Friendliness Rating
Not surprisingly for a place built as a shrine to the First Amendment, the Newseum’s photography policies are pretty relaxed. Photography is allowed in nearly all the museum, although I’ve gotten mixed information from staff on taking photos in the 5th floor exhibit on newspapers. Some say that it’s fine so long as you don’t use flash; others say photography isn’t allowed at all in there. Given how dark that particular exhibit is, it would be a challenge to take photos in there without a flash anyway.
Flash is allowed, with the exception of the 5th floor exhibit. Tripods are not allowed because of the usual tripping hazard issues.
The photojournalism exhibits are especially good and will appeal to photographers.
For a great view down Pennsylvania Avenue of the US Capitol Building, head up to the 6th floor outdoor terrace.
The Newseum is very central, right on Pennsylvania Avenue and across the street from the National Gallery of Art. It’s right off the National Mall.
The nearest Metro stations are Archives/Navy Memorial (Green and Yellow lines) and Judiciary Square (Red line).
Aside from the obligatory gift shop, there’s a largish cafe. And for a nicer meal, the building also includes a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, aptly named The Source.
Adult admission costs $22, less for seniors and youths. Kids under 6 are free. There’s a family pack (2 adults and 2 youths) that’s better value. And if you buy your tickets in advance online you get a 10% discount (here’s the link).