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     Volume 7 Issue 15 | April 11, 2008 |

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The Newseum

Shakhawat Hossain

The Newseum, the world's only interactive museum of news takes visitors behind the scenes to see and experience how and why news is made.

The Newseum is located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., on America's Main Street between the White House and the U.S. Capitol and adjacent to the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall.

The exterior's unique architectural features include a 74-foot-high marble engraving of the First Amendment and an immense front wall of glass through which passers-by can watch the museum fulfil its mission of providing a forum where the media and the public can gain a better understanding of each others.

The Newseum, which features seven levels of galleries, theatres, retail spaces and visitor services, also offers a unique environment that takes museum goers behind the scenes to experience how and why news is made. Visitors can act as TV anchors relive great news stories of the past and fascinating experiences of breaking news as it happens at the Newseum.

It can only be described as the lone speciality museum of news, which provides the opportunity to explore the notions of the freedom of press, free speech and free sprit for all people around the world. It is indeed a fascinating opportunity for anyone explore the unforgettable images of the extraordinary evolution of news from the spoken stories of ancient times to today's world-wide information explosion. I was no exception.

The Newseum, which is conveniently located at the World Centre of The Freedom Forum in Arlington, VA, minutes from Jimo Memorial National Cemetery and the monuments of museums of the Washington DC, is funded by the Freedom Forum, a non-partisan international foundation dedicated to free sprit for all people.

The beginning of the visit, actually, starts with an overview of the world-wide reach of news where anybody can find the terms news in their own languages. It is also not at all a difficult job for any body to find “Sangbad” written in clear Bangla alphabet. It is almost like the masthead of one of the country's oldest daily newspaper Sangbad.

It was also really amazing to see a total of 1, 841 newspapers nameplates not only from the United States of America, but also from around the world on a huge News Globe just in front of the front desk of the museum. Experiencing a break through the panorama of news on a 126 foot long seamless video wall featuring live satellite feeds of today's news around the world and multi-screen video programmes about Newseum exhibits is, undoubtedly, another spectacular attraction of the Newseum. During a trip, a visitor can easily learn what was happening in the world the month and the year he or she was born and also watch great moments in history in the area's only high-definition video theatre. A newspaper reporter, editor or photojournalist can test his or her skills just using the interactive touch screen monitors located in the Newseum. There is also a chance to explore the difficult ethical questions very often faced by journalists.

That's not all. There are lots of alluring attractions in and outside of the 72,000 square-foot museum. It provides an opportunity to view the greatest display of historic newspapers, magazines and news broadcasts ever assembled.

Then there is the Freedom Park that celebrates the spirit of freedom and the struggle to preserve it. The park features the Freedom Forum Journalist Memorial, which honours journalists who have died while trying to report the news, and an international collection of icons representing historic milestones in the pursuit of Freedom. It's an elegant spiral of glass and honours more than 1,500 journalists across the world; new names are inscribed on the memorial each year. The name of those Bangladeshi journalists, who were brutally killed till now while reporting the news, are also inscribed on the glasses of the memorial.

In order to celebrate the freedom that was restored to Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, eight sections of the original Berlin Wall pieces were placed outside Germany. Behind the wall is an original guard tower that once stood less then a mile from the check point Charlie.

It is really the fascinating to walk among icons of freedom that symbolise the victory over oppression and remind us that the struggle for liberty continues around the world. Icons on display include a toppled statue of Lenin brought from the former Soviet Union, a bronze casting of the jail-cell door from Martin Luther King Jr's imprisonment in Birmingham, Alabama; and replicas of the Goddess of Democracy from Tiannamen Square and the Freedom Forum Statue that stands atop the US Capitol.

The Newseum is funded by The Freedom Forum, a non-partisan, international foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all the people.In fact, the Freedom Park is a cooperative effort of the Freedom Forum, West field Reality Co., The Rosslyn Community and Arlington County, Virginia. The park, which is open daily, dawn to dusk and the admission to the NEWSEUM and the Freedom Park, is totally free.

(The writer is a Freedom Forum Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley, California, USA and now working as Attaché de Presse, Embassy of France, Dhaka)

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