Washington D.C. is a city of museums. Many of them are part of the Smithsonian group: eleven of the twenty located on the National Mall. Because they all are free to visit, it can be hard for a "for fee" museum to establish a toehold here. I've been reading wonderful things about the private Newsmeum that was established here in 2008 by the owner of the USA Today. I was sad to read that it would be closed/moving sometime this year and was glad that it was still open today. This 6-story building showcases the First Amendment on a 75 foot high marble engraving on its exterior. The museum takes visitors behind the scenes to see how and why the news is made. The history of news gathering was featured with a collection of newspapers dating back to the invention of the Gutenburg press. The traditions of news gathering all over the world were highlighted in an exhibition of newspapers from many foreign countries updated daily. As often happens to us these days, as the exhibits moved into more modern times, we were seeing programs and reading exhibits covering events that we remember very well. The museum changes exhibits regularly, so the events highlighted today were not the same as those highlighted last year. A 9/11 gallery featured a chunk of one of the World Trade Center towers. A huge chunk of the Berlin Wall was also eye catching. When we became tired of walking and standing, we saw short videos in fifteen small theaters which featured documentaries and clips from special news programs such as the landing of the first men on the moon. There was a great account of the LGBTQ movement from its days of hiding and secrecy to the relative equality its members enjoy today. Washington is full of junior high students who are doing the town and they especially enjoyed the TV studios which allowed them to produce and perform news programs. The gallery of Pulitzer Prize winning news photographs taken since 1942 was a real walk through history.
We could have stayed there the entire day, but we had to get back to the campground to board the bus for the evening tour of Washington by night. This tour confirmed that we are glad that taking public transportation into town is so convenient from the campground. First we stopped at the Capitol and White House, which was swamped with tourists. Then we headed to the Tidal Basin for a spin through all the major monuments around it and the Mall. The tour was truncated by the fact that the driver was new and missed the turn-off for the Jefferson Monument. Then the police kicked him out of his parking place there and we had to wait a long time for him to drive hither and yon to return to the area. The Jefferson was so busy, it was a miracle all of us campers could find our guide amidst the chaos. A night tour of Washington makes sense when you are at the older, classic monuments: Jefferson, Washington, and Lincoln are well lit and dramatic to see in the dark. The more recent monuments: FDR, MLK, Viet Nam, and Korean War looked like someone forgot to pay the electric bill. Because of the drivers' foul ups, we missed the new World War II memorial altogether. We were sorry not to see it since it is new, but when you think too hard about the meaning behind war memorials, they are hard to take. It was way past our bedtime when we returned to our home away from home.