D.C. Museum Scene Always Evolving With Newseum & International Spys

By Bob Lindsey

The 9/11 Gallery, sponsored by Comcast, containing some of the twisted pieces from the of the Twin Towers, a is probably the most emotional display at Newseum.

When attending one of the annual Independent Free Papers Assoc. conferences, we always try to take an afternoon or day before and after to see more of the destination city.  No matter if it’s a beach town, large city, desert or mountain location, there are always new places to explore.

Our fall conference this year took us to the nation’s capital, always a great place to learn more about our country, our heritage and people and its many diverse regions and attractions. It could take days to browse the Smithsonian museums, but we only had time for the American History Museum for  about three house.  We were lucky that our conference trip was two weeks before the government shutdown.

Our prime goal on this trip was to see two new museums—the Newseum and the International Spy Museum.  Both were good choices and should be on everyone’s must-see list.

Newseum now occupies an entire city block and is six levels of news history in print, radio, television and the new digital world.  We spent five hours there, but could have spent an entire day.

The front of the Newseum building features front pages of the current (that day) editions of the nation’s leading newspapers. Once inside, you can view hundreds of newspapers from the past five centuries, dated back to the 1500s with the first news accounts in print. There are more than 300 historic front pages on subjects with many landmark events.

When you first enter the six-story modern building, you are encouraged to start downstairs at Level 1. Here there are three 10-15 minute orientation films to view, including a good one on Sports in America and a 4-D movie “I Witness,” where you go on a journalism history adventure during some big news stories of their era. Just outside the movie theater are front pages from Civil War newspapers reporting the South’s succession and the assassination of President Lincoln.

Level 2 contains a fun photo exhibit of American Presidents and their pets and the NBC News Interactive Newsroom where you can sit in front of a camera and play TV newscaster and post a photo of yourself online.  Fans of the movie, Anchorman, should like the Anchorman Exhibit that opens Nov. 14 with props, costumes, and footage from broadcaster Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) in the hit comedy coming out soon with a sequel.

The third level has the Time Warner World News Gallery depicting how press freedoms vary around the world.  Here, you can explore the Bloomberg Internet, TV & Radio Gallery with a special section on Edward R.Murrow. The Journalist Memorial has all the names, photos and artifacts of journalists who died in the line of duty.   There’s also a replica of the office of NBC’s Tim Russert, with his personal items such as Buffalo Bills memorabilia and his famous white board where he wrote his infamous key words, “Florida, Florida, Florida,” during more than one presidential election.

Creating Camelot (bottom photo) depicts the Kennedy years with Jack and Jackie has just opened in time for the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s death.

A special attraction, “Creating Camelot,” contains a 100 ft.-wide video wall showing rarely seen footage and photos of the early years of the Kennedy family.  This exhibit, “JFK–A Thousand Days.” Is a video history of the youthful Camelot days in the White House to that dreadful day in Dallas. With the 50th anniversary of that November day approaching, this special exhibit will run through Jan. 5, 2014.

Other news exhibits include the Make Some Noise. the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and the FBI exhibit  about some of the top FBI investigations of all time, such as the Lindbergh kidnapping, spy Robert Hanssen and the Unabomber.  An emotional 9/11 Gallery features a twisted media tower from atop the World Trade Center. This moving exhibit posts a warning that it may be too intense for some visitors, especially children. For more information on Newseum, visit newseum.org.

The International Spy Museum is the only public museum in the U.S. that is solely dedicated to espionage.

The International Spy Museum at 800 F Street, NW, is a must-see attraction for 007 fans.  It is the newest D.C. museum and has more than 200 spy gadgets including weapons, “bugs,” buttonhole cameras and invisible ink.  Visitors can learn how  Hollywood has helped develop disguise techniques for the CIA and which pro-ballplayer and Oscar-winning director were spies.

The mission statement of the International Spy Museum is to educate the public about espionage in an engaging way and to provide a context that fosters understanding of its important role in and impact on current and historic events. The Museum focuses on human intelligence and reveals the role spies have played in world events throughout history. It is committed to the apolitical presentation of the history of espionage in order to provide visitors with nonbiased, accurate information.

This is the only public museum in the U.S. that is solely dedicated to espionage.  It houses the largest public collection of international espionage artifacts, many of which are being seen by the public for the first time.  These artifacts help bring to life the strategies and techniques of some of the most secretive espionage missions in history.

Kids will enjoy climbing through ductwork to spy on fellow museum-goers. At “Operation Spy”, anyone age12 and up can decrypt a secret audio conversation, crack a safe, and conduct a polygraph test of a suspect agent.

Anyone who loves James Bond should see the special exhibit, “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villans,” that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Bond films.  Here, Bond fans can explore evil-doers’ plots and see how the hero brings them down.  And it is interesting to see the progression of movie technology and special effects in the history of Bond films dating from Dr. No, Thunderball, and From Russia With Love to the most recent Skyfall.

The Secret History of History and Spies Among Us sections  offers names, historical events and deceptions that many will be familiar with, but probably more that will surprise you such as Moses, George Washington, Cardinal Richelieu and others. Learn how spying played such a major role in World War II, who were some of the key players and the importance of codes to the war effort.

Perhaps the most fun is testing your own spy skills in observing places and situations. In the School for Spies, the largest exhibit in the museum, you learn how to gather skills  necessary to be successful. Do you have what it takes to be a spy?  A visit to the International Spy Museum may answer your question.  For more information: spymuseum.org

On a rainy evening we ducked into the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery to view the nation’s greatest artwork, a portrait gallery of all our presidents and special exhibits including a competition section with some zany , but  creative artworks and photos.



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