April 11, 2009

Eagle Soars and Confetti Cannons Roar As Newseum Welcomes More Than 10,000 Visitors

The roller-skating "Newsies" get the party started outside the Newseum. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)
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The roller-skating "Newsies" get the party started outside the Newseum. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

A view of the pre-opening block party from the Newseum's terrace. (Scott Henrichsen/Newseum)
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A view of the pre-opening block party from the Newseum's terrace. (Scott Henrichsen/Newseum)

The line of visitors waiting for the Newseum to open snakes down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Canadian Embassy. (Mike Olliver/Newseum)
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The line of visitors waiting for the Newseum to open snakes down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Canadian Embassy. (Mike Olliver/Newseum)

A theater in the News Corporation News History Gallery features a critically acclaimed video on the press and the civil rights movement. (Scott Henrichsen/Newseum)
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A theater in the News Corporation News History Gallery features a critically acclaimed video on the press and the civil rights movement. (Scott Henrichsen/Newseum)

Students greet Mr. Lincoln. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)
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Students greet Mr. Lincoln. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

The News Hound entertains the Cherry Blossom princesses. (Dave Eggen/Newseum)
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The News Hound entertains the Cherry Blossom princesses. (Dave Eggen/Newseum)

A citizen exercises his right to freedom of assembly with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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A citizen exercises his right to freedom of assembly with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

The eagle "Challenger" makes his flight of freedom as the opening countdown begins. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)
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The eagle "Challenger" makes his flight of freedom as the opening countdown begins. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

Newseum and D.C. officials count down the moments until opening. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)
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Newseum and D.C. officials count down the moments until opening. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

A giant banner announces that the Newseum is officially open. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)
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A giant banner announces that the Newseum is officially open. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

From left, the Newseum's Alberto Ibarguen, Al Neuharth, Charles Overby and Peter Prichard celebrate. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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From left, the Newseum's Alberto Ibarguen, Al Neuharth, Charles Overby and Peter Prichard celebrate. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

Newseum founder Al Neuharth in front of the newly opening Newseum. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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Newseum founder Al Neuharth in front of the newly opening Newseum. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

The Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery features award-winning photos since 1942 (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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The Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery features award-winning photos since 1942 (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

Visitors crowd three of the Newseum's seven levels of exhibit space. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)
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Visitors crowd three of the Newseum's seven levels of exhibit space. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

More than 10,000 visitors stood in line to enter the Newseum on Opening Day. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)
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Aerial view of the New York Times-Ochs Sulzberger Family Great Hall of News. (Scott Henrichsen/Newseum)
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Aerial view of the New York Times-Ochs Sulzberger Family Great Hall of News. (Scott Henrichsen/Newseum)

WASHINGTON — A bald eagle named Challenger soared across Pennsylvania Avenue. Confetti dotted the sky. A marching band paraded through the crowd. The Newseum, Washington’s newest and most interactive museum, opened its doors to the public at 9 a.m. today. (Get full grand opening coverage.)

“The eagle has landed,” said Newseum Founder Al Neuharth, and Chief Executive Officer Charles L. Overby proclaimed the Newseum “officially open.”

Overby thanked the city of Washington, and in particular the mayor’s office, citing the relationship begun under former mayor Anthony Williams that helped bring the Newseum to fruition. Current Mayor Adrian Fenty welcomed the Newseum to the city, calling it “by far one of the great attractions in Washington, D.C.”

In front of the Newseum, Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to traffic so visitors could celebrate the opening at a block party beginning at 7 a.m. There was dancing in the street as the Mustangs performed classic soul hits in front of a lively crowd. Caricaturists made news-themed sketches portraying visitors giving speeches to throngs of reporters.

Presidential “big heads” Madison, Jefferson and Lincoln, historical re-enactors portraying Isaiah Thomas and Nellie Bly, and the Newseum News Hound roamed the avenue, posing for photos and giving autographs to kids of all ages. Visitors tested their accuracy tossing newspapers, paper-boy style, from a stationary bike to a faux front porch.

Under the Newseum’s 74-foot-tall marble tablet engraved with the 45 words of the First Amendment, a protester exercised his right “peaceably to assemble” by displaying a placard reading “Out of Iraq.” Throughout the morning, other visitors could be seen enjoying this hard-won freedom as well.

The line to enter the museum ran east down Pennsylvania Avenue and reached nearly as far as the U.S. Capitol by 9 a.m. By the end of the day at 4 p.m., more than 10,000 visitors had passed through the front door.

Near the front of the line, Oni Gillum was one of the first visitors to enter the Newseum. The D.C. native, who joined the line at 6:45 a.m., was a frequent visitor with her husband to the original Newseum in Rosslyn, Va.

“I have been waiting for this,” Gillum said. She said she was particularly interested in seeing the 9/11 Gallery, as she lost a cousin in the terror attack at the Pentagon. But, she added, “I want to see everything in here. I’m just so happy to be here.”

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