“Most people don’t realize that the entire mission of the FBI changed after 9/11,” said Susan Bennett, senior vice president for exhibits and programs at the Newseum. “That agency changed its focus from domestic crime to international terrorism.
“There is perhaps no better facility anywhere in the country for following news events and how the media reports on them than the Newseum,” she said. “And the events of 9/11 are a good example of that.”
The Newseum, on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, was created to chronicle the history of news and how the media reports it, and offers a fascinating collection of exhibits for everyone from news junkies to casual observers.
“We had the first permanent 9/11 gallery anywhere,” said Bennett. “We have an antenna mast from the roof of the World Trade Center, and we have copies of 100 newspapers on September 12 from across the world reporting on the attack. We have amazing video footage of journalists reporting from the scene that day.
“On the recent 10th anniversary, we put in an exhibit called ‘War on Terror.’ We actually have the shoe bomber’s boots and four spent matches he used to try and ignite the bomb on the plane. And for the anniversary, the news syndicates organized 100 comics by newspaper cartoonists on the event — we have those displayed here.”
I asked Bennett what exhibits were most popular with visiting groups.
“People love our collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photography. There are so many they instantly recognize,” she said. “We have every single photo that has won since the prize began in 1942.
“One of the most famous is the shot of the fireman with the small girl in his arms after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1996. That was taken by a bystander, not a journalist.
“Our Berlin Wall exhibit is also very popular,” she said. “We have three sections of the wall. People are struck by how one side of the wall has graffiti all over it — obviously the western side — and the other is absolutely clean. It’s a graphic depiction of what that wall represented.”
As you might imagine, the Newseum is moving quickly to encompass the new role of social media in journalism. Hewlett Packard is the sponsor of a new gallery being built to showcase the revolutionary effects of social media on how and when news is made public.