The Moving Newseum

How is the Newseum moving? Let us count the ways:

  • The Newseum moved from its Arlington, VA location to its current location on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC.
  • It’s a big museum, so a visit means moving around a lot!
  • To help you move around, there are glass hydraulic “people mover” elevators.
  • There are movies and movie theaters everywhere, including a “4D” movie in which your seat moves.
  • And of course, the content is moving.

9/11 Gallery at the Newseum

Perhaps the most moving part of the Newseum is the 9/11 Gallery, where visitors can see artifacts from all three attack sites, including a massive, mangled news antenna from the top of the World Trade Center. There are also displays of front pages reporting on 9/11, kiosks where visitors can leave comments, and a section of the exhibit devoted to journalist Bill Biggart, who died while taking photos of the events as they unfolded.

But the biggest tearjerker in the 9/11 exhibit seems to be Running Toward Danger, the short film about journalists covering the tragedy. When I watched it for the first time as part of my training, I got out of the theater as soon as I’d seen the whole thing, thinking I couldn’t handle any extra seconds of the looping movie. Days later, when I was posted in the 9/11 Gallery, I found that I did not necessarily need to actively tell some of the rowdier adolescent visitors to please calm down in the gallery – the content did my job for me. The school groups often rush into the theater talking, laughing, poking each other, moving too fast; when they emerge several minutes later, they are subdued, solemn, almost in tears.

So far, I’ve seen visitors generally experience the 9/11 Gallery in quiet contemplation. I enjoy the Berlin Wall Gallery more, where I have a chance to hear the conversations that adults have with their children/students. After one father explained the history of the Berlin Wall to his school-age kids, his daughter asked, “Which side was happy?”

Other moving exhibits include the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery (where the majority of the prize-winning pictures are also profoundly depressing pictures), the Journalists Memorial, and the more uplifting First Amendment Gallery.


About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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