With the opening of the new Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in April 2008, Washington has a new seven-level, 250,000-sq.-ft. museum dedicated to educating visitors about the importance of a free press in safeguarding our First Amendment rights.
Visitors enter the Great Hall of News, a 90-ft.-high atrium dominated by a 40- by 22-ft. LED display, and begin exploring 13 galleries including the 8,000-sq.-ft. News History Gallery, the Internet-TV-Radio Gallery, an expanded Interactive Newsroom, and a state-of-the-art broadcast studio and control room. Familiar icons from the original Newseum include the gallery of Pulitizer Prize-winning photojournalism, a chapel-like memorial dedicated to more than 1,600 journalists who have died while reporting the news, and segments of the original Berlin Wall.
Ralph Appelbaum Associates was charged with creating a series of expanded exhibits that tell the stories behind more than 500 years of news history, while keeping visitors engaged, alert, and receptive. Exhibits needed to be integrated with the architectural design by Polshek Partnership Architects, respond to daily events reported in the news, and maintain the Newseum’s brand, identity, and aesthetic.
Appelbaum’s solution was to evoke the transparency of a free press and graphically suggest a three-dimensional newspaper. Individual galleries, representing sections of a newspaper, are identified via large three-dimensional typography that is integral with the interior surfaces. Graphic rails are porcelain enamel to satisfy the client’s demand for quality and maximum durability for an expected 1 to 2 million visitors per year.
Exhibits are as ever-changing as the news itself, often incorporating interactive technologies. At an Ethics Table in the News Ethics gallery, visitors work in teams to answer ethics questions about reporting. Interactive workstations provide games and news-related surveys and quizzes.
Visitors circulate clockwise down through floors of the building, alternately passing through dark, partially transparent, and totally transparent galleries. The quality of light is different in each successive space.
Ralph Appelbaum (principal in charge); Christopher Miceli (design director); Michael Maggio, Nicolas Guillin, Kai Chiu, Chris Niederer (designers); Amanda Voss, Tommy Matthews, Matthew McNerney, John Locascio, Robert Stern, Nancy Hoerner (graphic designers); Kate Cury, David Mandel (content coordinators); Nikki Amdur (editor)
Turner Construction Company (general contractor), SH Acoustics (acoustic design), Electrosonic (A/V systems), Newseum (interactive media, script writing), Brandston Partnership (lighting), LERA (structural engineering), Flack + Kurtz (MEP)
Kubik (primary fabricator), Laboratorio Museotechnico Goppion (display cases), Ely Inc. (artifact mounting), Barco (LED wall)
“This design pays homage to the past, but, as one would expect from an institution dedicated to journalism, remains up-to-the-minute, current, and relevant. Technology is wonderfully integrated to breathe new life into historic artifacts and give engaging form to abstract ideas. From the box office to the bathroom, this exhibition is engaging, energetic and, of course, educational.”