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Washington's  Newseum Traces History of Journalism


Washington is dotted with museums of every shape and size, dedicated to art, technology and history. A new museum tracing the history of journalism recently opened its doors to the public. VOA's Tabinda Naeem reports The Newseum is located in a prime spot - about midway between the U. S. Capitol and the White House. Its proximity to the center of American political power sends a powerful signal about the profound value Americans place on freedom of expression. Ruth Reader narrates.

The Newseum is made almost entirely of glass, reflecting the transparency of the media. Large television screens are visible to people walking by. Engraved on the buildings fa├žade is the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the foundation of American freedoms including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

The Newseum is a collage of constantly changing images, videos, photographs, and news clippings. It brings together new technology with old to trace the history of the news. The Newseum's Vice President Susan Bennett credits the founder of the USA Today newspaper with being the driving force behind the museum.

"The Newseum represents the ideas of many people. Al Neuharth, who is the founder of USA Today and the founder of the Freedom Forum, who is our principle funder, thought we should have a museum of news," Bennett said. "And our first one was started in 1997 in Virginia and it operated for five years. And one thing that surprised us was how many people wanted to come and see a museum of news. And that lead to a decision to build a much bigger and much better museum."

The Newseum is huge: 75,000 square meters of conference and exhibit space spread across 14 galleries on seven separate levels. While the museum is dedicated to the profession of journalism, Bennett says they are not the intended audience.

"Well we didn't build the museum for journalists. We built the museum for those who have an interest in history and an interest in current affairs, politics, we have 15 theaters here," Bennett said.

Ralph Applebaum designed the Newseum's exhibits. He says, "This is a noisy museum. This is a museum where people talk to each other, because what they are walking through is they are walking through the images of their lives," he said. "We are kind of a history museum in disguise in a way. Because news is really the building blocks of history."

Newseum executives hope to inspire visitors from around the world about the value of a free press and the men and women who dedicate their lives to writing history's first draft.