The Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum opening to the public in 2002 as a place “the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on an all-but-invisible profession that has shaped history”. The museum is small, but if you like a lot of reading, it contains a lot of fun facts and information. The Spy Museum is full of tidbits about international spying and the equipment used throughout history to spy on our neighbors and them to spy on us. The museum offer’s many interactive screens to get you involved and also a large vent, big enough to crawl through, so individuals can do a bit of spying on their family observing the displays below! My favorite exhibit is the Bond car, including a model of the decked out car! And the most interesting thing I learned, would have been that Washington, DC is home to more spies than any other city in the world. Gives you something to think about!

If you are in DC, and aren’t too tired out of museums, consider stopping by. However, I do want to mention that unlike our Smithsonian’s, The Spy Museum isn’t free. So make sure this is a subject you are into, before making the commitment. The Spy Museum also offers lectures & seminars and is available for hosting events… these options, I would highly consider taking advantage of!

The quote about is from their website. All though I was visiting as a guest of the museum, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

The International Spy Museum

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The Newseum

Newseum Sign

Continuing my adventures locally, I decided it’s time to start hitting up some of the museums I have been meaning to get to over time. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Newseum, not knowing much about it other than everyone who has been there speaks highly of it. I loved it! Great exhibits of major news events, and about the history of news, from around the world. What a wonderful way to show off the history of life then through the eyes of the media!

Newseum Building

The museum itself stands proudly on Pennsylvania Avenue, although the building looks massive, it’s exhibits are well laid out in small sections surrounding a massive 6 story entrance hall fully equipped with a news helicopter! The museum also offers an introductory video, 4D theatre, and supporting videos throughout most of the exhibits, along with a lot of interactive touch screens and a mock news studio section where visitors can show off their talents and take pictures! Come with me as I take you on a brief walk through of my favorite highlights…

Newseum entrance hall with helicopter

We decided to start at the bottom and work our way to the top. The first exhibit, on the ground floor after the introduction video, is the graffiti covered Berlin Wall, fully equipped with a Death Tower. This particular Death Tower, which stands three-stories tall, was used to house armed guards with search lights on top, stood at Stallschreiberstrasse. This tower was gifted from the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin in 1994.

Berlin Wall at the Newseum

Berlin Wall Death Tower at the Newseum

On our way to the Photo of the Year exhibit, housing amazing and some very tragic and heart wrenching photographs was a satellite news truck, locate next to the cafeteria, surprisingly, with good fresh food. The photo exhibit leads into the FBI exhibit. Home to the ever hot topic in the news, terrorism. On display is everything from the Unabomber’s cabin, airplane engines from 9-11, cells phones from the 9-11 wreckage, a sneaker bomb, and hand written letters from the Waco disaster. A really interesting section.

Newseum FBI Exhibit

Newseum FBI Exhibit Unabomber Cabin

Newseum FBI Exhibit Waco Display

One of the more off the cuff exhibits that I wasn’t expecting was an exhibit on The Anchor Man movie. The most interesting part I found of this exhibit was “The Real Story” signage that went along with it discussing topics such as the format of news and women anchors. Without putting much thought into the history of television news. Heading upwards, there is an exhibit with a massive three wall timeline of “Internet, TV, and Radio”. It’s truly amazing how modern technology has changed the face of news, including the most recent trends of social media. My favorite part of this exhibit was the display case housing an original professional digital camera that was produced by Kodak and Nikon produced in 1994. It’s big, and knowing how heavy my professional camera is, I cannot imagine how heavy the one in the case is! Working our way up to the next floor we found ourself in front of what I feel is probably the most important in the history of the way the news has developed in our country, the First Amendment Gallery. If it wasn’t for so many of our First Amendment rights in this country, especially Freedom of the Press, our news could not possibly be what it is. This section although brief, is very valuable. On the Freedom of Press display,they even discuss Garrett Graff, the first White House Blogger. My favorite, and if anyone was following my tweets from this day, is the big poster of Bart Simpson writing on the chalkboard “The first amendment does not cover burping”!

Newseum First Amendment Exhibit, Freedom of the Press Display

Further down the hall is the “Inside Tim Russert’s Office. Tim Russert (1950-2008) well-known for NBC’s Meet the Press, had a special exhibit, including a recreation his messy office space along with a diagram of what was on his desk.

Newseum, Tim Russert's Exhibit

Around the corner is located an exhibit on a modern news story that effected so many people and their lives. The 9-11’s exhibit. This two-story exhibit houses an antenna from the top of one of the World Trade Center’s buildings. Along with a two-story wall covered with front page newspapers from the attack. Although this section does contain other items such as items found in the wreckage and a limestone cornice piece from the pentagon, the antenna and wall of newspapers is pretty overwhelming and was the majority of my focus in this exhibit.

Newseum, 9-11 Exhibit, World Trade Center Tower Antenna

Probably the most important section of the whole museum is the room full of newspapers from important events from around the world across time. Off to the left of this exhibit were some really old books, including the Magna Carta from 1215. But the room full of newspaper draws is filled with fun and heroic and terrifying stories from throughout history. From war, to peace, to Jesse James assassination, women’s right to vote, to the man on the moon.

Newseum, Manga Carta

Newseum, Tray's of Newspapers

Newseum, Tray's of Newspapers

Although I didn’t discuss all the exhibits, I really enjoyed myself. Be prepared for a long day out. Even if you don’t read all the signs you walk past and stop to watch the videos, the museum has so much to offer. We spent 5 hours including lunch and we figured we could have spent another 2 hours easily. And make sure and take in the 4D movie, it was worth the watch!

Although I the Newseum was happy to sponsor my visit, all of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Walking the DC Memorials…

Growing up in the Washington DC metropolitan area, I know my parents took me to see a lot as a kid. And over the years when friends and family came into town, we would head in and do something touristy. But in all honesty, I rarely cross the river. Since I am a part-time traveller, I figured I should get to know the area I live in just as I would want to get to know the places I visit. Recently I had the awesome opportunity to work with Context Travel and attend their Front Yard America walk in downtown DC with Katie.

In the many years since I have moved abroad and returned to my home city, new monuments have surfaced that I had yet to have seen, so this was a perfect chance to get myself out and about! Katie was full of information, somethings I remember learning as I grew up, some things I think I knew but I had forgotten, and many things, I simply just didn’t know! DC was once mostly swamp area, and during the summers the area suffer’s from immense heat, humidity, and bugs! Fortunately our three-hour tour included a lot of shaded area’s; because it was the first silly hot day of the season, even at 9am the sun was suffocating. We did our best not to let it distract us too much!

Starting by the capitol building in front of the botanical gardens we got a brief overall lesson of the basic city plan in the early days and headed to the Smithsonian castle to view a 3D model of the current city as is. We then wandered our way down the length of the mall, past the Washington Monuments and almost all the memorials. Did you know that there is only one monument in Washington DC? Everything else is considered a memorial. New fact!

Interesting facts and tidbits:

Washington DC, USA

-The (current) Capitol Building is actually the third design throughout time. The first, with a leaky roof, the British kindly burned down for us during the war of 1812. The second was the rebuild from that fire and I think the third update was due to the ever-growing congress and renovations were required for a larger building.

-To get the marble to the capitol building location to build the capitol, a canal was built from the river to the building site following the now road that is called Constitution. The canal is still present under the road, it was never drained or filled in, so the road floods easily.

-The monument that proudly stands in front of the Capitol building is the Grant memorial. It is also the third largest equestrian memorial in the western hemisphere…who would have thought?!

Washington DC, USA

-The Botanical Gardens was originally planned to be directly in front of the capitol building, over time it was moved to the side. Maybe as not to effect the view from the steps to the washington monument.

Washington DC, USA

-The Washington Monument lost funding around the time of the civil war. When construction restarted, they could not get the same marble, you can see the difference in color just shy of half way up.

-2011’s earthquake caused structural damage to the Monument. Repairs are expensive, but there are plans for private and public funds to be put towards the project of repairing and reopening the Monument.

Washington DC, USA   Washington DC, USA

-Smithsonian Castle. Washington is somewhat unique in the fact that they offer free museums. “The Smithsonian Institution was established with funds from James Smithson (1765-1829), a British scientist who left his estate to the United States to found ‘at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.'” (Smithsonian Institute). The Castle was the first building ever built under the name Smithsonian and mostly offers a rest area with bathrooms for tourists, the rest of the building I believe is purely administrative. But they do have beautiful roses out front.

Washington DC, USA

-Our newest memorial, The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial looks out over the tidal basin towards the Jefferson Memorial, a lot of controversy went into developing this memorial from the position it was facing to the paraphrased quotes used around the site.

Washington DC, USA

-Franklin D. Roosevelt was our only disabled president, what are the changes a man in a wheel chair are to get elected again? Of course there were not TV’s and the opposition back then didn’t seem to strike at personal information quite like the cat fights of today! This is one of my favorite memorials.

Washington DC, USA

-The Vietnam Memorial is a long reflective wall listing all servicemen’s name who died in action during that time. Here’s the thing, this memorial was built about what many consider a less important “Conflict” when still nothing had been built for WWII or the Korean War. These soldiers standing watch over the wall was actually an after thought because of the controversy of there being no actual figures.

Washington DC, USA   Washington DC, USA

-In response to the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial was built shortly after, also with a reflecting wall, but this time with a field full of soldier figures.

-The World War II Memorial is one of the most recently built memorials. With a large fountain surrounded but an Atlantic side and a Pacific side, every state and territory is named on a pillar with a memorial wreath.

-The tour didn’t actually take us to the Jefferson Memorial because the walk to the other side of the tidal basin is not by any means a short one! But the beauty of the memorial radiates.

Washington DC, USA   Washington DC, USA

-The Lincoln Memorial, I swear Lincoln gets bigger every time I see him! Lincoln proudly watches over the mall from his perch with a view towards the capitol building.

Wow, what a walk! Although I was a guest of Context Travel on this walk, all of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

Front Yard America, Context Travel

Smithsonian Institute

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