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D.C. Museum Promotes ‘First Amendment’ Rights

Timothy Cox | 4/13/2018, 6 a.m.
The Newseum is located at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol Building and the White House in Washington, D.C. The ...
The Newseum is located at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol Building and the White House in Washington, D.C. The mission of the Newseum is “to increase public understanding and the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.” Maria Bryk/The Newseum

Nestled neatly along historic Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital is a contemporarily-designed facility known as the Newseum. The structure stands as one of the District of Columbia’s more uniquely-designed museums.

According to Sonya Gavankar, Newseum Director of Public Relations, the mission of the Newseum is “to increase public understanding and the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.”

According to the U.S. Bill of Rights, there are currently 27 amendments and the First Amendment is defined as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In other words, this law provides freedom of speech and freedom of the press for American citizens.

With that in mind, the Newseum concept was created to “help visitors understand their First Amendment rights and have a better understanding of the importance of investigative journalism,” according to Gavanker.

Notably, it was Al Neuharth who conceived the idea of creating the Newseum. He was also the founder of the Gannett-owned national newspaper, USAToday.

Neuharth first founded the Freedom Forum, which is principal financier of Newseum and the Newseum Institute. Fittingly, the Freedom Forum was established on July 4, 1991. Neuharth died in 2013. He was 89.

The Freedom Forum remains dedicated to a free press, free speech and free spirit and is a nonpartisan foundation that champions the First Amendment, according to the Newseum’s website.

The Newseum is a very interactive museum, with seven levels including 15 galleries and 15 theaters. Exhibits include the 9/11 Gallery, which displays the broadcast antennae from the top of the World Trade Center; and a Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery, featuring photographs from every Pulitzer Prize-winning entry dating back to 1942.

Currently the facility is paying photographic homage to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which occurred April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenneesee.

Gavanker enthusiastically suggests that people of all ages visit the facility. She encourages tours by church groups, social organizations, senior citizen groups and educators who sponsor school field trips to visit the downtown D.C. building located at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue.

On April 11, 2018, the Newseum celebrated its 10th anniversary in its current location. Previously, the facility was located in Arlington, Virginia.

We needed a larger footprint,” said Gavankar. “The location between the Capitol and the White House is a perfect place to discuss the First Amendment.”

The Newseum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, about the Newseum, call: 202-292-6100 or visit: www.newseum.org.