Not Just Another Museum
Ever since I was a youngster, my mother always took my siblings and I to museums. We’d go to art museums, history museums, and any other museum you could think of. Perhaps she took us in the hopes that she would raise thoughtful, creative, cultured individuals (and I must say that I think she did an excellent job).
At any rate, my favorite museums always included activities where I could touch what I was seeing. One such museum was the Natural Science Center of Greensboro in North Carolina that we frequented. It boasted all sorts of touchable things including rooms where we could draw science-related pictures, exhibits that could be moved and a petting zoo.
However, sometimes my mother would take us to other museums where things could not, or at least should not, be touched. As we reached out with our sticky little hands she would remind us that “we look with our eyes, not with our hands.” In my young mind it was hard to tell the difference; if I could in the science center, why couldn’t I do that wherever we went? It also made it extremely difficult for me to step foot in a museum and enjoy the experience. As I grew older and became exposed to more museums (through various school trips) my interests continued to fade as I viewed these stone buildings as little more than places one went (that were often much too heavily air-conditioned) and just looked at things.
By the time I got to college, my interest peaked once more as I had the opportunity to study abroad in Dublin, Ireland. I went to a couple of very fascinating museums including a Famine museum, Kilmainhaim Gaol (which was a prison turned into a museum), and a very emotional exhibit displaying the events of Bloody Sunday in Belfast. Although I couldn’t touch anything in these museums either, I found them to be much more interesting; probably because of the fact that I was able to learn things about Irish culture and their way of life. Such museums were informative and beneficial to my trip because they allowed me to understand the culture in a historical context.
A New Way of Learning
When I came to D.C., my interest level in museums began to pander off once more. As others planned various trips to the dozens of museums here, I thought to myself, "with all the great things going on in D.C. (including parks, shopping, and nightlife) why would I waste two seconds in some boring museum?" When asked by co-workers what museums I would like to visit, I could only shrug helplessly thinking: "none, if at all possible!" In all honesty, I did plan on taking my mother to museums when she came to visit but in the midst of all the other exciting things we did, such as going to Eastern Market, the National Zoo, and Georgetown, we simply did not have the time or energy!
Standing on the roof of the Museum. What an excellent view!
Yet, living in a city so rich in museums and exhibits, I knew there was no escape, I would step foot in a museum before all was said and done! Last Monday, for my program we were all required to go to the Newseum. I’d heard great things, but remained skeptical. A whole museum dedicated to news? How could that possibly be interesting? Alas! I was oh so wrong. The Newseum is by far one of the best museums I’ve ever gone to! As a matter of fact, I would love to go back!
Part of the exhibit dedicated to fallen journalists. The bullet holes in the truck are real!
What made it so amazing? Well at the risk of sounding corny, it really bought history to life! My favorite exhibits included the Berlin Wall (there was a piece you could touch), the 9/11 memorial (which was highly emotional and very well done), the National Geographic exhibit (which was also very moving) and the exhibit dedicated to those who lost their lives in the pursuit of journalism and investigative reporting. It was all extremely engaging. This museum also grabbed my attention because of the variety of exhibits and formats. There were also interactive pieces throughout the exhibit to keep visitors engaged such as an electronic plaque on which you could write your thoughts on 9/11 as well as a section where you could pretend to be a newscaster!
My favorite part of the Berlin Wall.
As the weeks are winding down, if you feel like you haven’t done enough in D.C. and you want an activity to do during the day that doesn't include being burned alive, I strongly suggest you visit the Newseum; tickets aren't that expensive at $21.95 (plus tax) and it’s an unforgettable experience!
1. As mom-like as it sounds to say, don’t forget a light sweater! If you’re anything like me, you’re almost always freezing to death! I’m one of those people who turns down the air conditioning when no one’s looking and wears scarfs in the spring! So, although it usually feels like it’s 100 degrees outside, you might want to bring something a little warm. As a matter of fact, my only complaint was the temperature of the building…
2. Go early in the day! This museum isn’t really an after work ordeal, there’s a ton to see so it’d be best to get there early so you can have plenty of time to peruse everything you might want to see before it closes!
3. As a note, if you’re from a different cultural background (i.e. not American) you may not enjoy some aspects of the museum as much as others because some require a greater historical context (such as the exhibits about past political figures and old news clippings from early America). One of my friends said that this was an issue she came across as she walked throughout the museum but fear not! If you think this might be an issue, simply go with an American friend so perhaps you can get their perspective for a more valuable experience.