Monday, August 22, 2011

A Day In D.C.

This past weekend I tacked on an extra day after a Friday business presentation in Alexandria, Va., and visited two favorite sites in Washington, D.C.

Twenty-four hours in downtown D.C. also afforded me an accidental visit to the "Hinckley Hilton" as my Mapquest printout directed me to the wrong hotel on Friday afternoon (though the mile-long walk on Connecticut Street was nice, and helped me locate a wonderful Thai restaurant for dinner).

On Saturday, my first tourism stop was to the National Portrait Gallery. I love this place -- always learn a lot with every visit. Any my three-hours inside yielded an introduction or reintroduction to some Folk Art masters, a surprise Georgia O'Keefe skyline painting from 1932 (gorgeous), and a peek at the Ronald Reagan installation which was a new addition since my most recent visit.

Though there were no direct Olympic references spotted, some of the Reagan-era portraits reminded me of his role in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Opening Ceremony; also, the Folk Art of Alabama/Georgia fame, Howard Finster, brought back notions of his creations for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.

Another new addition (I think) was the enclosure of the museum's courtyard, which is now covered by a wonderful modern skylight.

The afternoon marked a return to the Newseum; my first visit was on Thanksgiving 2001, at the original location in Arlington, Va., and it was awesome to finally experience the Newseum's new home on Pennsylvania Ave.

Only moments after picking up the tickets, a trifecta of Olympic connections to the Newseum emerged. First, there is a "journalism in sport" film that brought to light several historic images from coverage of Olympians and the Olympics, from Muhammad Ali and Wilma Rudolph to more recent Olympic images from Barcelona, Atlanta, Athens and Beijing. The Olympic coverage was punctuated with Jim McKay's somber announcement "They're all gone" referencing the victims of the Munich Olympic hostage crisis carried live for more than 18 hours on ABC Sports.

Just outside the theatre for the sports film, I enjoyed the temporary "photos of the year" exhibition featuring several Olympic images of 2010 including the Vancouver Games and the first Youth Olympic Games at Singapore.

The third Olympic reference in the museum was in the video archive, where several Games' key clips are available via touch screen.

I was impressed with the new Newseum's outdoor overlook for Pennsylvania Ave., with commanding views of the Capitol Dome. Inside this viewing area they display a timeline of the week of Hurricane Katrina and how the news media (specifically print) covered the national tragedy (it did seem to me that more video highlights would enhance this gallery).

Of course, 9/11 and its upcoming 10th anniversary are prominently displayed with a headlines and video experience built around remains of the World Trade Center's radio tower. Somber, yes. Informative, yes. It was also interesting to read of many journalists who died in the line of duty. I found the Newseum also kept things current with an obviously new display featuring the last edition of the now-defunct Murdoch tabloid of London.

The one Achilles' Heel of the Newseum is its lack of social media displays, which were tucked behind several decades worth of historic broadcast coverage. It seems to me the Newseum has a real opportunity to inform its visitors of the rapid-fire changes underway through delivery of online news. They covered the basics -- would love to return to the Newseum with a new section or wing on social media in the last decade, big online news successes and flops.

Looking forward to another DC visit in the months ahead.


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