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Newseum generates ideas

February 2013 Heurista consultants, Anne and Jeff McLarty share their thoughts visiting the Newseum in Washington, DC

Anne Manner-McLarty

on 20 August 2013

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Transcript of Newseum generates ideas

February 2013 visit to
the NEWSEUM in Washington, DC:
photos, compiled links and
comments on the experience from
Heurista consultant Anne Manner-McLarty
This exhibit is replicated in an online experience:
Large signs marking the entrance to key sections or exhibits
are very nicely done. Some include donor recognition along
with descriptive copy. The construction leads me to believe
that individual panels could be updated, as needed.
Interactive technology is well designed. Most frequently used to store large amounts of data, both photos and data. Presentation graphics, style, orientation and location of
screens changes from one display to the next, making each seem unique.
The challenge with etched materials: you'll inevitably miss a name. For the moment anyway, an a paper graphic added on the opposite wall updates the list etched in glass.
The recognition of individual major donors is very well done. There are large "walls" each with three distinct components:
• A header denoting the donor
as a founding partner
• A static recognition statement
to the right of the screen
• An interactive screen providing
variable content specific to the
donors' philanthropy and
relationship to the Newseum
The lower right section tells about the space or exhibit. Looking at the design, I'd guess that the panels can be changed individually, if needed.
Screens outside each theater
present information about
the schedule for each theater.
The exhibit of front page news from around the world is popular and engaging.
It combines a limited number
of print sheets with an interactive kiosk displaying many more, that can be searched using an alphabetized scroll bar. The exhibit is replicated in an online format:
The History Exhibit is impressive in the volume of information displayed, made possible via stacked sliding drawers. The room is structured around a timeline coupled, changeable frames for artifacts and a number of different interactive media screens. Contemporary exhibit tools, such as the projected images, emphasize the timelessness of the artifacts displayed.
The History Exhibit includes an extensive database of news people. Information is presented in copy, still photos and video. The same screens can be used to access the Front Pages exhibit or play games related to other topics.
Interactive screens in multiple exhibits allow all viewers to contribute their impressions and experiences, thereby becoming a permanent part of the NEWSEUM exhibits. A web link allows for remote online engagement with this activity.
Projection is used to present personal experiences. The size and location gives these an ethereal, pervasive quality.
The displays throughout the Newseum combine written word, photography, digital media and artifacts. Cabinetry is built to facilitate modification. Screens are integrated with still images, and often framed to make them more integrated. Lighting within the exhibits is dimmed to play off the back-lighting of exhibits and digital screens.
The NEWSEUM is a large facility with many super-scaled features. This is particularly highlighted in the Internet, TV and Radio Exhibit. I was impressed by the television screens used to create a pattern on the walls of the theater. Framing the screens and placing them behind acrylic conveys the concept of synchronized broadcasting via many outlets.
The digital presentations throughout the NEWSEUM provide exemplary donor recognition. Not every organization would have the resources – talent or technology –to develop content of this caliber. This example includes a message from the Smiths, commentary about the Smiths and a listing of the many projects supported by the Smiths' philanthropy, in addition to the NEWSEUM.
I noted that the studios' generic names, as listed in the large architectural signage, aren't identical to the formal names on the interpretive panels. While it is common to see inconsistent reference to the donor,
I would strive to avoid this type of mismatch. Architectural signage, even at this magnificent scale, should be designed only after donor agreements have been finalized.
Touchscreen monitors allow for access to an enormous amount of information that would not otherwise be feasible to present at all times.
The 9/11 introduction display includes multiple video presentation about the donor, Comcast Foundation, as well as a historical overview, a listing of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy and visitors' thoughts on the experience.
Detailed information is provided for a single year, providing a more in-depth visitor experience. There is also an interactive display that allows for focused information searches.
The New Media Exhibit demonstrates the variety of interactive technologies available to today's exhibit designer. There are screens that can be customized, tie-in to the viewer's social media accounts and full-body engagement games. I look forward to seeing this type of activity migrate outside the "information" exhibits and into the philanthropic experience.
The NEWSEUM has its own YouTube channel,
providing a preview of the museum and online
access to exhibits. Several of the interactive
components have corresponding online
The Journalist Memorial holds a prime location, is beautifully
designed and holds many levels of functionality. There are
static and interactive lists, information about individual journalists and the opportunity to leave a comment.
The NEWSEUM was recommended to me by a
client that has set a goal of providing a superior
donor recognition and visitor experience in their new, state-of-the-art facility. I was impressed
with everything I found there, including the donor recognition content. Keep in mind, I see everything through my designer/consultant eye, yet the NEWSEUM is worth the visit for everyone. A truly stellar accomplishment and a great example of multi-layered, multimedia storytelling.
My initial reaction to the donor "wall": predictable and boring. It looks like most museums' donor walls. The location and scale are good, and it includes a reasonable method for future additions and updates, but this is an under-inspired effort compared to the rest of the museum.
The donors' names are repeated in the scrolling bands outside each theater.

Large quotes throughout the facility provide consistency and set a tone of reverence for the media's role in society.
You can learn much more about the NEWSEUM online,
or visit the museum on your next visit to Washington, D.C.
Full transcript