While planning a trip to our nation's capital to see friends, I focused mainly on coordinating schedules and figuring out where to eat. But the day I left, I suddenly got really excited about all the museums there are in the District
Although 48 hours doesn't give you a lot of time to explore, I managed to spend time in two great museums: the Newseum
and the National Portrait Gallery
The Newseum, a museum dedicated to the history of news and journalism, just opened its impressive new building at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. in April. That's the First Amendment inscribed into the front of the building.
Its six levels are packed with interactive exhibits and small theaters. My friends and I spent about four hours looking at everything, but I could have spent another day there easily. Especially in the area full of historical front pages (as seen at right). Declarations of war, unthinkable events and tragic assassinations are displayed alongside incredible achievements, joyous milestones and other turning points in our world's history.
The same hall is lined with mini-exhibits of various aspects of journalism, such as the contributions of black Americans, women and others to the field, and the changing face of the news business. (The Palm Pilot of blogger Jim Romenesko is on display, for example.)
The section devoted to coverage of Sept. 11, 2001, was also really
impressive. What looks like a sculpture is a twisted chunk of the radio
tower formerly atop the World Trade Center. The walls are lined by front pages from Sept. 12, and videos show news coverage from the day.
Although journalism nerds like myself will probably appreciate the Newseum most, anyone with a taste for history will enjoy spending a few hours there.
The National Portrait Gallery is an absolute powerhouse and a must-see museum even if you're not well-versed in art history. With free admission, there's no reason not to stop in when you're in Washington. The newly reopened atrium (above) is pleasantly cool and quiet even on sweltering summer days.
One big highlight of the collection is the permanent "America's Presidents" gallery. My personal favorite was Norman Rockwell's depiction of Richard Nixon. And it's interesting to see John F. Kennedy's portrait is the only openly abstract painting in the bunch.
It's incredible to think the building, which originally housed the US Patent Office, was almost demolished in the mid-1900s
. Its endless corridors and galleries are absolutely gorgeous, and the art it contains is a true national treasure.
If I'd had a little more time to spend in DC, I would have visited the National Archives, Cooper-Hewitt and the Natural History Museum. Next time!