The power of the pen is evident throughout the halls and theaters of the Newseum. Touted as “the world’s most interactive museum, “five centuries of news is displayed on seven floors covering 250,000 square feet. Outside the glass building the first amendment, carved into a 750 foot high marble tablet, greets the visitor declaring the purpose of the Neweum’s fourteen major galleries and fifteen theaters.
G-Men and JournalistsI stared at the once all-powerful, J. Edgar Hoover, whose goal was to “eradicate crime.” Leaning over his desk, a life-size cut out of Hoover greets and intimidates visitors just like he did criminals in the new G-Men and Journalists exhibit. Although I’m not 100 years old, I did live through most of what I saw through the media, either at the time or later on.
In the 1930s, J. Edgar Hoover’s moment came when the FBI killed bank robber John Dillinger, making national headlines. On display are Dillinger’s “death mask”, and his bulletproof vest. Hoover recognized the power of the press and he built a relationship with Walter Winchell by feeding him exclusive stories that would make national headlines.
Serial KillersThe exhibit profiles serial killers, defines them, and tries to explain how their minds works. Actually seeing the reconstructed cabin of the Unibomber, Patty Hearst’s gun and coat, David Berkowitz’s (Son of Sam) story and how he got his name from a neighbor’s dog that spoke to him, Jeffrey Dahmer and the charming, Ted Bundy brought back vivid memories of the news of those days.
The museum drenches you in news: historical news, current news, Pulitzer Prize-winning news, print news, electronic news, and images that chronicle our time in history. The perils and challenges facing journalists searching for the truth are explored, and a Journalists Memorial honors those who lost their lives in the line of duty covering the news.
A towering block of concrete covered with graffiti shoots through the seven-story museum. After examining it, I cannot tell what it is — and then I see the German writing and recognize that it is -- a piece of the original wall that divided East and West Germany. A three-story guard tower that was next to Checkpoint Charlie stands next to the wall as a reminder of the well-known crossing.
Chunks of history reach out to me in every gallery jarring my memories of where I was when each event happened. Just like we all know where we were when Kennedy was shot or more recently, when 9/11 occurred, each momentous event not only changed the world, but also changed us individually.
If you go
555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
Located at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street.
Phone Number: 888/NEWSEUM (888/639-7386)
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Award winning journalist, Karen Hamlin is a native New Englander who moved south to Florida and now lives near Washington DC. Karen specializes in dropping into new situations and taking the reader along for the ride. First prize winner of the 2003 and 2004 North American Travel Journalists Association competition, Karen's peripatetic travels have taken her through most of Europe, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, China and the Middle East. Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, International Travel Writers Alliance, and Washington Independent Writers. A veteran world traveler, she writes for national and regional magazines.
Photos by Karen Hamlin and Michel Istaphanous