Journalism museum to reopen in D.C.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The new $450-million home of a journalism museum called the Newseum will open April 11, allowing it to attract some of the thousands of tourists who will be in town for the famed cherry blossoms, officials said Thursday.

Admission will be free on opening day; after that, it will cost $20 for adults, making the Newseum the latest in a series of pricey new museums competing with the many free attractions in the capital.

The previous incarnation of the Newseum, which was in Arlington, Va., and closed in 2002, was free. Officials at its parent organization, the Freedom Forum, decided to build a larger center closer to the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall.

The new building on Pennsylvania Avenue has 250,000 square feet of exhibit space, 15 theaters, 14 major galleries and two broadcast studios. There are interactive kiosks where visitors can put themselves in various journalism roles -- photographer, editor, reporter or anchor. One theater features what the museum calls a "4-D" film -- a 3-D movie with environmental effects, including seats that move and air gusts -- that covers news events over more than 150 years.

"We think it's important to have something for everybody," said Charles L. Overby, chief executive of the Newseum. "Our goal is to teach people about the free press and the First Amendment and to make it fun and inspiring."

Overby said his favorite aspect of the museum was the visuals, including a gallery featuring every Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph. The "4-D" film "has a message to it, but you also find that World War II fighter planes are coming out of the screen right at you," he said.

Museum officials had hoped to charge $17.91 in honor of the year the First Amendment was ratified. Overby said they changed it to $20 because it's a simpler number for administrative purposes.

Reduced admission will be available for children and seniors.

Overby said he was confident that there is a market for the high-tech, interactive experience the Newseum promises to offer, even with the $20 price tag. He cited the International Spy Museum, which charges $18, and the Washington location of Madame Tussauds wax museum, which charges $21.

Even before the opening was announced, the Newseum already had reservations for 30,000 paying schoolchildren, he added.

The museum was originally scheduled to open Oct. 15, but the date was pushed back because of construction delays.

Overby attributed the holdup to the complexity of the building, which, in addition to the museum, includes broadcast facilities, a conference center, apartments and a restaurant by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, which is already open.

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