Washington, D.C.› Attraction
555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (At 6th St.)
Our Rating Neighborhood Penn Quarter Hours Daily 9am–5pm. Closed Jan 1, Thanksgiving, and Dec 25. Transportation Metro: Judiciary Square (4th St. exit), Gallery Place/Chinatown (7th and F sts./Arena exit), or Archives–Navy Memorial Phone 202/292-6100 Prices Admission $24.95 plus tax ages 19–64, $19.95 plus tax seniors (65 and over), $14.95 plus tax ages 7–18, free for children 6 and under. Buy tickets online and receive a 15% discount. Web site Newseum
(NOTE: The museum will be closing January of 2020.)
With newspapers closing every other week, it seems, and accusations of “fake news” and biased reporting thrown about by those who don’t like what they’re reading, a visit to the Newseum takes on not just added poignancy, but perhaps a sense of alarm. That’s because at the core of this entertaining yet erudite enterprise there’s an important message: The Fourth Estate is an integral part not just of democracy, but of civilization itself. (Lest there be any doubt, The Washington Post felt compelled in 2017 to add the motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness” to run beneath the name of the newspaper on its front page.) The museum makes its case in a much less heavy-handed way than I just have, while at the same time acknowledging the myriad ways that journalists can screw up! In a town of absorbing museums, this one more than holds its own.
The seven-level museum has 15 galleries highlighting subjects from ethics in journalism to Pulitzer Prize photographs, 15 theaters, 130 interactive game stations, and two state-of-the-art broadcast studios, including one that has the real-life Capitol as its backdrop. When you enter, staff usually direct you to the lower level to watch orientation films. I say skip the 4-minute introductory film and head instead to the theater showing the 8-minute What’s News?, a topical film that explores the boundaries of journalism. Also on this level is the Berlin Wall exhibit, which includes eight 12-foot-high concrete sections of the original wall and an East German guard tower. Future crime reporters should tour the FBI exhibit’s display of artifacts related to big-name cases from the past 100 years.
From here, take the glass elevator to the sixth floor and stroll the outdoor terrace to admire the view of Pennsylvania Avenue and the Capitol (great photo op). If you have time, peruse the timeline that’s posted along the length of this promenade, tracing the history of events that took place along the avenue.
Now walk down the stairs to level five to explore the History Gallery, which serves up 5 centuries of journalism and more than 300 historic front pages. The 100-foot-wide video wall plays original programming and breaking news throughout the day.
Down another flight to the fourth floor finds you in the Newseum’s technology hub gallery, where the subject changes with current events but social media and interactive tools are always a focus. Elsewhere on this floor, the First Amendment Gallery tells the stories of real people whose experiences illustrate the value of our five First Amendment freedoms. The 9/11 Gallery highlights the challenges faced by journalists reporting on 9/11 in a seriously moving fashion. The third floor’s Journalists Memorial honors the more than 2,323 journalists who have died in the course of reporting their stories since 1837.
Pull up to one of 48 interactive kiosks in the second floor’s NBC News Interactive Newsroom and test your prowess as a photojournalist, reporter, or editor. Sit in as a news anchor and read from a teleprompter, then play back the tape to see how well you did.
The gallery of Pulitzer Prize–winning photographs on the first floor includes a documentary film and interactive kiosks featuring interviews with some of the photographers.
Finish up on the concourse level with a viewing of I-Witness, whose 4-D film features put you in the picture with legendary journalists Isaiah Thomas (radical printer, not basketball legend), Nellie Bly, and Edward R. Murrow.
Keeping things real in 2019 is the exhibition “Rise Up: Stonewall and the Gay Rights Movement” (Mar–Sept), marking the 50th anniversary of the June 1969 police raid of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village as the spark for the subsequent and ongoing gay liberation movement.
If it’s before 3pm, you might want to visit the food court, which has a very kid-friendly (and adult-friendly—wine and beer are on offer) menu designed by Wolfgang Puck. The museum also has several gift shops.
Map555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, D.C.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.