Sniper cars and bomber shacks and photographs that will make you cry

Ok, so I showed you the bathrooms of this place already. But that’s nowhere near the coolest part.

I’m not a huge museum person. Well, I am and I’m not. I always enjoy going but I typically like to just visit certain exhibits that call my name. I don’t need to look at everything. This is especially true in Washington, D.C., where most of the museums are free and there are a lot of them. The day is too short to waste on some boring exhibit; get to the fun stuff!

An aside – two recommendations on the museum front:

  • If you like fashion, check out the First Ladies Exhibit at the National Museum of American History  … it’s got all of the inaugural gowns that were worn by the first ladies as well as other fashion trends they started or promoted while in the White House.
  •  Also, you have to check out the butterfly conservatory at the American Museum of Natural History.) The exhibit is not cheap (it’s about $28 for an adult) but if you go on Tuesdays it is free. You still need a ticket, though. So go early, pick a time a few hours later, and go check out the other museums while you wait.


However, this post is not about butterflies or first ladies’ fashion, as cool as that is. This post is even better than that. It’s about the Newseum, which is hands-down the best museum in DC.

I’m no stranger to Newseum – when I worked at the newspaper, I uploaded the front page of the paper to their web site every night that I designed it. But the museum itself is actually newer than that – it’s only been around for about 2 years. Gray has recommended that I go every time we’ve been in town; he said not only is it amazing, but it’d be doubly amazing for me with my journalism background.

Finally, Jeff and I made our way over to the Newseum. But it was 4:30 p.m., the museum closes at 5 and it’s a $20 entry fee. We didn’t go that day, but one of the cool reasons to walk by the building is they have 50 front pages displayed every day – one page from each state. Of course I beelined to South Carolina, hoping to see my former employer. Nope, it was The State. Oh well, we decided to come back the next day.

The next day felt a little like cheating on Anil; he was scheduled to arrive in town the following day and I knew he wanted to go. But we figured if it was as cool as everyone said it was, we could easily go twice. And it turns out, the $20 fee is actually for two days! Since we paid the first day, we got in the next day for free. Of course, I checked out the front pages outside again. Nope, still The State.

We went for the guided tour, which was a good idea. I won’t bore you with all the details (you had to be there. Truly, you have to go there.) But our tour guide was really invested, at times emotionally (there wasn’t a dry eye during the Sept. 11 exibit; our guide was in Brooklyn on that day).

The next day we grabbed Anil and went back (The State again), and with him we poured over the Pulitzer Prize-winning photography through the years. Photos that will make you laugh or cry and sometimes both. We saw a 3D movie (they call it a 4D movie) that was amazing. I want to go back and watch the rest of the movies. Seeing the Sept. 11 exhibit with Anil was another emotional experience, as he was on Long Island that day.

We watched a film of the only journalist killed on 9/11. A photographer was walking his dog in Brooklyn when he saw the smoke. He grabbed his camera and ran to the story. Called his wife a little while later and told her he was safe; he was with the firefighters and he’d meet her at his studio in 20 minutes. She never heard from him again. Weeks later his camera was recovered and the photos were intact. She saw his last moments, through his lens, and they are on display for us to see too. The photos are beautiful and heartbreaking.

There’s a sports photography exhibit. A piece of the Berlin Wall. An FBI exhibit which includes a replica of the car the Snipers used to shoot from. The replica was built for the court case that convicted John Muhammad. Also on display is the shack that the Unabomber lived in. The actual shack that he lived in. Creepy!

OJ Simpson’s suit that he wore in court is on display. There’s an Elvis exhibit, a Katrina exhibit, the Sept. 11 exhibit. (Those last two featured front pages from every state. Again, no Herald on either.)

There’s a TV studio inside the museum. There’s a radio exhibit. There’s a technology exhibit that is as current as hosting an iPad (which it is already calling an “artifact.” Cute.)

And finally, I found what must be the building’s only reference to The Herald. In the bathroom, ha. Some of the tiles feature “bloopers” – funny corrections and headlines. And what do you know, that’s where I saw my former employer. Hey, we can laugh at ourselves, right?

Next time you’re in D.C., go. And plan to go back. And if you only allow 3-4 hours like we did each day, planned for them to drag you out of there kicking and screaming, like they had to do with us. You will not want to leave.