All lovers of history need to stop by the Newseum in Washington D.C. There are many times when I’ve said that I could spend all day exploring a museum. It has never been truer than when my family visited the Newseum. The Newseum celebrates freedom of the press and speech and explores the impact and role of the media on history. I brought all 3 of my kids with me to the museum, ages 10, 8, and 3, and each of them found something interesting.
We began our trip down History Lane by watching a video on the Newseum itself, which helps families get the lay of the land and know what to expect in the museum. From there, we walked over to the Berlin Wall display. As we toured the display, including the largest section of the Berlin Wall outside Germany, it brought me back to the day when the Wall came down and we watched it happen on TV. Being next to it was something special. I was also blown away by the East Berlin side – pure white cement staring out at a lookout tower – contrasted to West German side covered in graffiti. It was a stark example of freedom of speech versus tyranny.
A host of interactive exhibits are found throughout the museum and we flew around from one exhibit to the next; we became news anchors and correspondents, played a game involving ethical questioning, pushed buttons in a media gallery that is a big hit with little ones, and explored many other exhibits. There is an amazing FBI exhibit that I was enamored with and so was my 10 year old son. The exhibit included stories and artifacts from mobsters and the men who hunted them.
My favorite room in the museum is a news history room which has over 400 original newspapers reporting on historical moments. Some of the ones that I found interesting were assassinations and murders (JFK and Jesse James), as well as papers discussing the Women’s Right to Vote, Landing on the Moon, and papers from the Civil War. Oh, the time I could have spent in that room.
There was also a fascinating display on reporting the Vietnam War that covered in detail the troubles of that war and the time period. We happened to be studying the Vietnam War during our home school studies, so that was an extra bonus for us. The display and videos did not hold back on visuals or storytelling, so the material might be too graphic for some kids and guidance might be needed for more sensitive kids.
There’s also a moving documentary about the journalists who were at Ground Zero on 9/11. There’s a box of tissues strategically placed as you enter the room; you might want to grab a few.
And speaking of tough things to look at, there is an area of the museum devoted to Pulitzer Prize winning photographs. Many photographs capture harsh moments, including hangings, people on fire, kids in peril, and many moments of horrible circumstances caught on film. Kids will need someone to walk them through this room because of the many grisly images or parents should consider tackling it without the kids in tow.
My family spent about five hours touring the museum (including a break for lunch and a visit to the gift shop). My 3 year old was a little young for most exhibits, but my 8 and 10 year old kids were old enough to appreciate the museum and be impacted by the history of reporting. As for me, I can’t wait to go back. I felt like this museum was made for people like me. As I said, we spent five hours, but we could have spent a lot longer without a three-year-old in tow.
Also, side note: The café in the museum is actually really good.
The Museum is located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW and is near the Metrorail stations at Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter and Judiciary Square. Tickets for adults (19-64) cost $22.95, Seniors (65 and up) cost $18.95, and kids (7-18) cost $13.95.
Disclosure: I received tickets for my review, but the words in this post are my own.
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Now for some pics of the Newseum