- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Newseum opened its doors yesterday morning on Pennsylvania Avenue after a bustling block party that brought hundreds to the museum that claims to be the world’s most interactive.

“The museum tells about the biggest stories of our lives,” said Newseum CEO Charles L. Overby, as he stood with city officials outside the 250,000-square-foot structure in front of a nearly 80-foot marble wall engraved with the First Amendment.

  • Photogallery:Newseum Opening

  • Mr. Overby led a boisterous crowd in a countdown to opening that ended with bursts of confetti, a D.C. high school marching band performance and the appearance of a “Newseum Opens” headline on a banner that extended across the museum’s front entrance.

    The line of visitors that stretched down Pennsylvania to Constitution Avenue streamed into the museum at 9 a.m., and in the first hour and a half over 1,500 people had entered the glass doors. By 2 p.m., over 8,000 visitors had seen the inside of the new D.C. landmark, which broke ground in December 2003.

    Mayor Adrian M. Fenty congratulated Mr. Overby and his staff, and congratulated the people of the District and visitors to the city for the “great attraction” that is “one of the greatest [museums] in the city.”

    The museum was formerly located in Rosslyn just across the Potomac River but closed in March 2002 while the new museum was being planned. It first opened in 1997, drawing about 2.25 million visitors.

    Valerie Ong showed up for the 7 a.m. block party yesterday where local bands performed, newsies on roller skates handed out newspapers and caricature artists drew portraits.

    “I wanted to come for the opening — and wanted to come for free,” said Miss Ong, 23. The admission charge, which will be $20 for adults and $13 for children, was waived yesterday.

    At 2 p.m., newsmen and politicians took the stage of the 535-seat Annenberg Theater to dedicate the museum.

    New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an independent who also founded Bloomberg News Services, said he was unique to the slew of speakers in that he has “worn both hats” as a newsmaker and newsman.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. praised the museum for its dedication to the First Amendment.

    “I think of visitors to this museum as reporters with their own notepads, learning the story of journalism,” Chief Justice Roberts said.

    Only a few glitches were reported. A fire alarm was mistakenly triggered at around 1:35 p.m., according to museum officials. The alarm caused temporary problems to the Newseum’s audio system and created a backup near the front exit.

    The museum will open its doors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but yesterday closed at 3 p.m. — to the surprise of hundreds of visitors still in line outside the building.

    Among the more popular exhibits in the 14 galleries and 15 theaters was an exhibit about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A portion of the antenna from the North Tower of the World Trade Center stands near a wall filled with the images of dozens of front pages from Sept. 12, 2001.

    Gary Sapaugh of Tomball, Tex., said the exhibit “took me back to that day, and I saw pictures I hadn’t seen before.” His wife, Barbara Sapaugh, 50, said the exhibit was very moving, and wiped tears as she left the 11-minute film presentation called “Running Toward Danger.”

    A group of about 40 students from Alice Deal Middle School in Northwest pretended to be TV reporters in the Interactive Newsroom on the second floor.

    “It was educational and fun — and a good simulation,” said Sandy Than, 12, She said that she’s thinking of being a reporter now.

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