From Academic Kids

The world’s first interactive museum of news — the Newseum — opened in Arlington, Virginia, on April 18, 1997. Its mission: to help the public and the news media understand one another better. In five years, the Newseum became an internationally recognized attraction, drawing more than 2.25 million visitors and receiving critical acclaim — from press and public alike — for its exhibits and programs. Visitors were entertained and educated as they explored the story behind the news.

In 2000, Freedom Forum leadership determined that the best way to increase the impact and to appeal to much larger audiences would be by moving the Newseum across the Potomac River to the National Mall in Washington, DC.

The original Newseum was closed on March 3, 2002 in order to allow its staff to concentrate on building the new, larger museum.

After obtaining a landmark location at Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, the design of the building and its cutting edge exhibits became the focus. The Newseum Board selected noted exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum, who had designed the original Newseum in Arlington, Virginia, and architect James Stewart Polshek, who designed the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to work on the new project.

This design team had the following goals:

  • To design a building that would be an architectural icon, easily recognized and remembered by visitors from around the world.
  • To create a museum space three times as large as the original, with the capacity for more than two million visitors a year.
  • And finally to celebrate the First Amendment and be a beacon for a strong free press.

Highlights of the building design — unveiled October 2002 — include a façade featuring a “window on the world,” 57 by 78 feet (17 by 24 m), which looks out on Pennsylvania Avenue and the Mall while letting the public see inside to the visitors and displays. It also features the 45 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, etched into a stone panel facing Pennsylvania Avenue.

Visitors to the six-level, 215,000 square foot (20,000 m²) Newseum will enter a 90 foot (27 m) high atrium and begin exploring the museum’s six levels of displays and experiences including a 17,000 square foot (1,600 m²) News History Gallery (more than double the size of the original history gallery); nine themed or changing exhibition galleries; an expanded Interactive Newsroom; a state-of-the-art broadcast studio and control room with a smaller studio overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue; and familiar icons from the original Newseum including prize-winning photojournalism, a Journalists Memorial dedicated to more than 1,500 journalists who died while reporting the news, and segments of the Berlin Wall.

The building also features an oval, 500 seat “Forum” theater; approximately 145,500 square feet (14,000 m²) gross of housing facing Sixth and C streets; 75,000 square feet (7,000 m²) of office space for the staff of the Newseum and Freedom Forum; and a 9,000 square foot (800 m²) conference center located directly above the Newseum Atrium. A conference center terrace on the sixth level and terraces accessible to Newseum visitors located on the second and fifth levels feature dramatic views of the U.S. Capitol.

When it opens in 2007, the new Newseum will be to journalism and the First Amendment what the Louvre is to painting and what the Air and Space Museum is to aeronautics. With its location on “America’s Main Street,” Pennsylvania Ave., it will be one of the most prominent and well-attended museums in Washington, the museum capital of the world.

A living monument to journalism’s role as a pillar of democracy, the Newseum will be the nexus between the Fourth Estate and world leaders and opinion makers: the marketplace where great journalists’ ideas are debated. World leaders and journalists will meet in the Newseum to make announcements, hold news conferences, appear on television programs or participate in discussions.

Finally, the new Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue will be a beacon for the First Amendment and fairness in journalism. It will be the world’s best argument for the enduring value that a strong free press brings to a free people.

NBC’s Tim Russert, a Newseum trustee, captured the potential of the project when he said: “The Newseum made a pretty good impression in Arlington, but at your new location on Pennsylvania Avenue you will make an indelible mark.”

The museum currently maintains a website which is updated daily with images and PDF versions of newspaper front pages from around the world.

The Newseum is funded by the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people.

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