The Newseum, in DC, was created just like the NMAI in the spirit of creating a space that asks the visitor to not simply look at the past and walk through, but allows the audience to question and feel. Many museums contain exhibits that pull at our heartstrings and create emotion, but the Newseum (like the NMAI) aims to show how the past is still alive today and everything around us is interrelated. One exhibit that sticks in the mind is the huge room containing front pages from newspapers yearly since before the Civil War. Walking through the room forces the visitor to realize that the news and problems of the past do not stay in the past; many of the problems that were in the US in previous times have come back up and reshaped themselves.
Notorious in many people’s minds from a bit before our time is the “Unabomber,” who sent out bombs through the mail from the seventies until the mid-nineties. Brought to fame through television and written journalism, the man lived in a little wooden shack for over 20 years, where he made his own bombs and wrote a manifesto about the deteriorating state of the US. The Newseum allows visitors to see a lot of the press surrounding him at the time but also goes a step further: it features the actual cabin that the Unabomber lived in. His original, lived-in shack is on display for you to look in, and you get a creepy view of how a crazed man lived by himself for over 20 years.
Another great exhibit (probably the most memorable) is the memorial to September 11. A wall hundreds of feet high displays front pages from all over the world after news spread about the terrorist attacks. The words (bold headlines like “Bastards!” and “Unthinkable!” and “Our Nation Saw Evil”) and pictures that pop out grab one’s attention, and it’s impossible to remember that you’re in a museum at that moment; it’s like being right back in 2001, on September 12, wondering what is going on in the world. In front of the wall, maybe one of the most spectacular things to see, is the 360-foot antenna taken from the top of the North Tower. It is burnt, rusty, bent and in terrible condition, but it is there. Once thousands of feet above New York City, it is there, right in front of you, an eerie reminder of the damage caused on the fateful day.
The Newseum, with its share of typical displays behind glass, is nevertheless an attempt like the NMAI to allow the visitors to do much more than view history.