- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2019

It’s the start of a new year and new decade — but the end of an era for the Newseum, which closed its doors for the last time Tuesday.

Officials at the journalism museum announced early last year that it would close at the end of December due to financial struggles and that the 250,000-square-foot building on Pennsylvania Avenue would be sold to Johns Hopkins University.

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of visitors have toured the Newseum’s seven floors, where the exhibits and artifacts will be de-installed and sent to a storage facility until a new permanent location for public viewing is found.

Janet Purnell, 65, is a visitor services representative who has worked at the Newseum since its opening in April 2011. On Tuesday, she joyfully took pictures for visitors in a broadcast studio that has a view of the U.S. Capitol building.

“This is the last time you are going to see us Don’t make me cry,” she jokingly told the museumgoers as they posed for their photo. “Take care babies!”

“I have been here all 11 years, and I am going to miss meeting people from around the world,” Ms. Purnell said, adding that the Pulitzer Prize photo exhibit is one of the most popular among visitors. “I am going to miss this spot.”

Gail Kinney took a train with her husband from New Hampshire to the District for the sole purpose of visiting the Newseum one last time.

“I get kinda choked up really,” Mrs. Kinney said. “This museum dedicated to the five freedoms [of the First Amendment] is really meaningful, and it has just an extraordinary message. It’s really too bad that it hasn’t been able to make it beyond today.”

Caroline Sacks, 23, of New York, grew up in Bethesda and was able to go to the Newseum while she was home for the holidays with friends.

“It’s just sad,” Ms. Sacks said. “I think of all the museums, that one is my favorite. I work in public relations now so journalism holds a place in my heart.”

She added that what’s special about the Newseum is that “it makes journalism cool for kids.”

The museum is especially important, Ms. Sacks said, because it puts into perspective how much free speech U.S. citizens enjoy via the exhibit that categorizes and rates the levels of the press freedoms around the world.

Although there is no new location for the museum, the Freedom Forum, the nonprofit group that created and primarily funded the Newseum, plans to continue education about the First Amendment online and has a traveling exhibits program.

Since its opening, the forum funded more than $600 million to run and build the museum, one of the largest gifts to any museum in the world, according to a press release. About 850,000 people visited the Newseum this year.

Johns Hopkins University purchased the property for $372.5 million and plans to use as a center for its D.C.-based graduate programs.

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