Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Newsies, spies, butterflies.

Letterpress from the Newseum

Melanie went home early Sunday morning. I'm sad she did, because she missed my favorite museum of all, the Newseum. I guess that means she has a reason to go back (not that she couldn't find a hundred others)!

Ok, so call me a nerd or whatever, but when I found out about 3 years ago that there was a NEWS MUSEUM, I knew I just had to go. Had to see what this place was all about. News is obviously one of my passions so it was kind of a given.

We set aside a huge block of time for it on Sunday morning. Sunday was the best day to go because there were hardly any people there.

First thing -- the design of this museum is wicked cool. Really modern and ... newsy. If you've ever been in a newsroom, it felt very much like that. High-tech and fast-paced and current. First thing you see when you walk into the giant atrium is a HUGE hi-def screen broadcasting the latest news and a crawling marquee displaying current headlines. Suspended in the air is a real-life news chopper. Pretty much awesome.

So you get there and you take the glass elevator up to the 6th floor and then work your way down through the exhibits. I like museums that have a natural flow but still allow for some freedom, so this was perfect.

Some of the highlights:

*9/11 Exhibit: The first thing you see is the mangled broadcast antenna from the World Trade Center surrounded by front-page headlines from the morning after.

Front-page headlines from Sept 11

In the gallery's mini theater, you get to watch this 11-minute film about reporters and photojournalists who ran TOWARDS the danger that fateful day. One reporter talked about how he and his photog captured the falling towers on film, then they showed the footage. Harrowing. We all remember that tragic day, but it is especially heart-wrenching to hear the perspective of the journalists -- they are the ones who risked their lives to show the world the atrocities of terrorism and record that historic day for our posterity. Definitely a tear-jerker, that film.

*Pulitzer Gallery: Bring a tissue (or 10) to this one. Each of these prize-winning photos are enlarged and displayed next to a synopsis. Some of the famous pictures included the flag-raising at Iwo Jima and a firefighter carrying a badly-wounded infant out of the wreckage from the Oklahoma City bombing. I get chills just thinking about some of those images.

*Berlin Wall: This exhibit is one of the first you see when you walk into the Newseum. I found it ironic that the Smithsonian only had a fake Berlin Wall but the Newseum had a real section of it. Here we are in front of it.

It was interesting to read how the Wall could not stop information, by way of news, from getting to East Germany. The spreading of information was the catalyst for the Wall's demise. See how important freedom of the press is?

Speaking of which, this wall was another one of my favorite parts of the Newseum:

This world map shows which countries have a free press. As you can probably tell, green countries are free. Yellow countries are partly-free, and red countries do not have a free press.

*Covering Katrina: Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc just half a decade ago, yet how many of us are still relatively unaware of the damage she left in her wake? The Katrina exhibit was HUGE. So many videos, newspaper articles and artifacts. A lot of people died, which seems like an obvious fact, but it's an outright shame if you think about it. Here we are in the 21st century and a perfectly preventable disaster took the lives of nearly 2,000 and displaced over a million. Blows my mind.

*News History: I LOVED the News History gallery. It housed the very newspapers which chronicled such historic events as the Revolutionary War, the dissolution of the Union prior to the Civil War, the lunar landing, Princess Diana's death and so forth. Really cool. I could have spent hours in there.

Bombing of Pearl Harbor headline

We also had a lot of fun in the Interactive Newsroom. Dill got to do his first stand-up.

Notice how he's now wearing a jacket -- his green shirt wouldn't cooperate with the key. First rule of on-set reporting: Never wear green in front of the green screen!

I did a stand-up as well and it was great fun. Felt like riding a bicycle. Unfortunately, my photographer (Dill) was a little busy with his own stand-up and couldn't get a picture of me. So here's an oldie of me, for kicks:

If you're ever in D.C., go to the Newseum. It's a little pricey -- about $20 a person -- but most of the other museums are free anyway and it's entirely worth paying for. I felt like I could relate to every exhibit on a very personal level, and not just because I majored in broadcast journalism.

After the Newseum, we grabbed some lunch with Dill's brother and his family at 5 Guys. Hate to say it, but 5 Guys is not all it's cracked up to be (except for the free peanuts ... har har). Seriously, though? In-N-Out is so much better.  After that we headed to TangySweet for some fake Pinkberry. It was pretty good, actually!

Dill and I took our frozen yogurt and headed to Barnes and Noble to meet up with my friend Katie and her husband, Nick. So good to catch up and rest our feet for a bit!

We finished up the day with the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian. Ugghhhh. Not my favorite museum ever. It's pretty outdated. Plus it smells weird. And I was so tired of walking by that point, it was really hard to enjoy the place. But the airplanes and rockets and modules hanging up in the air are pretty cool! And I thought it was fascinating to read about how much commercial airlines have changed and see all the old flight attendant and pilot uniforms.

After the Air and Space, we went to Union Station to get some pizza and then headed home. They were working on the Metro so we had to wait an extra 20 minutes or so to catch the next one. We'd heard rumors that we might have to get off early and take a bus the rest of the way which we were a little worried about, but that never came true (thank goodness).
The next day, we got up early again and went to the International Spy Museum. Photography was not allowed in that museum so I have no pictures of it, but I'll just say it was really cool. All those cool spy gadgets you seen in James Bond movies were real -- single-shot lipstick pistols, umbrella guns, transmitter shoes, even a fake piece of dog poo with a transmitter in it! They also had quite a bit about the Cold War era and anti-terrorism groups. Very informative museum, and pretty short, considering we got through it in less than 2 hours and read quite a bit as we went.

When we were done at the Spy Museum, we had just enough time to go to the American Natural History Museum before we needed to get to the airport to go home. I am glad we had time to see it because there were some awesome exhibits. I really liked all the gemstones, crystals and rock formations. Plus, we got to see the Hope diamond. Of course, there were lots of dinosaur bones and stuffed critters to ogle, too. They do have a "Butterflies" exhibit that seems really cool, and probably is -- but it's an extra $6 to go into it. It's basically a mini greenhouse full of live plants and butterflies. We peeked into the window and saw a girl with a big butterfly right on her head! I was kind of sad I couldn't go in, but I wasn't about to pay $6 for it. I guess I'm cheap. Surprise, surprise.

An elephant + me in my cool "I Heart Jack Bauer" shirt, courtesy of the Spy Museum

We finished up there around 1, just in time to get back to Baltimore and hop on a plane back to Phoenix. I was a little sad to leave D.C. but excited to see and hug my kids again. All in all, I felt very rejuvenated (yet simultaneously tired -- good thing I got to sleep on the plane!) and ready to be a mom again. I will say this, though: kidless vacations for couples are awesome. Highly recommend.

Candid Camera (aka Debbie) caught us snoozing in the gate


  1. I'm taking notes...I just know that Ethan would go gaga over the Spy Museum! I want to take my kids out to Washington D.C. in the next few years - might have to go twice. We have some friends that will be stationed near there for the next year that have kids the same ages, which makes a trek there super tempting. I went when I was in elementary school and have always wanted to go back.

  2. That Newseum sounds absolutely amazing, I will have to check that out someday. Coming from a fellow newsgeek, and all...

  3. what an incredible place! I would love to go there!

  4. So you did what normal folks would need about 2 weeks to do! So much :) Good for you!

    Of course I'd love the Newseum, too. That would be an incredible place to see. My next DC trip for sure.

    Glad you had fun Jenna!

  5. Very cool. The news museum sounds awesome. And taking a childless vacation with Miles also sounds amazing. Someday...


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