New Museum Tells Media Story

Part First Amendment memorial, part shrine to the Fourth Estate, Friday's grand opening in Washington, D.C., of the Newseum -- that's a museum dedicated to news -- has been a $450 million investment eight years in the making.

Glass-encased and protected by a 74-foot-high outward-facing marble engraving of the First Amendment, Washington's newest museum and tourist destination sits on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. It is the new home of journalistic artifacts and traditions and dilemmas that have defined a profession.

It will also be the new home to ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" when the TV program begins broadcasting live from the Newseum April 20.

Outside the main entrance, "Today's Front Pages," a daily-changing exhibit of newspaper front pages from around the world, works in conjunction with an online gallery of the same name.

Inside, via print, video, audio and digital media spread over seven floors of exhibits, galleries and theaters, the Newseum aims to tell the story of world news coverage through the lens of an ever-changing industry.

It is a fair bet that the Newseum is unlike any museum you have visited before.

"For us, we're a little different than many museums, even many history museums, in that we always start with our story," said Carrie Christoffersen, the Newseum's curator of collections.

Finding the Story

Citing the conceptualization and creation of its various exhibits ranging from the Berlin Wall gallery to the ever-changing speed of news, Christoffersen said, "We have a story we want to tell ? and we start with the story."

"Some ideas sing instantly and you know they're going to be winners. And some take a little more time to bubble up and really get fleshed out and some fall by the wayside for sure," she said, describing the process as one filled with conversation and collaboration.

Alongside the industry professionals and media scholars involved in the creation of the Newseum exhibits, the curator said, "you have people like me who are 'thing-obsessed.'"

Christoffersen said, "I come at things from a notion that people are able to connect to an event or story through material culture, through the 'stuff' that we have."

In the case of the Berlin Wall, the exhibit features the largest collection of the wall outside of Germany with eight original sections of the dividing structure alongside examination of how journalism dealt with the 30-year history of the wall.

The eastward-facing facade of the wall remains clean; the west side covered with graffiti, as a guard tower looms ominously nearby.

A timeline within the exhibit details 28 years between the wall's erection in 1961 to its historic fall in 1989 using photographic images.

Documenting 'Pinnacle Events'

In addition to telling the story of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Newseum also spends considerable space on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Christoffersen describes 9/11 as "pinnacle events in people's lives and they can stop and talk instantaneously about where they were or what they were doing or how they found out about both those things happening."

The Newseum's 9/11 Gallery features the remains of the broadcast antenna that sat atop the north tower of the World Trade Center against the backdrop of more than 100 front pages dated Sept. 12, 2001 from newspapers around the world.

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