Dramatic, Powerful, Emotional, Entertaining, Moving. These were some of the sentiments most likely shared by the museum’s visitors as they walked through the galleries, in pursuit of truth.

Death Tower
The environs of the Berlin Wall bristled with lethal restraints – bunkers, anti-tank trenches, razor wire an, most ominous of all, three-storey towers to house armed guards and searchlights. About 300 towers were built in East Berlin along its border with democratic West B erlin. This one stood at Stallschreiberstrasse, less than a mile from Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin’s best-known East-West crossing.

The guard tower was a gift in 1994 of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin. Its transfer to the Newseum was facilitated by Rainer Hildebrandt, the museum’s director and founder. He feared the towers would be lost to commercial development. He was correct. Today only a few towers survive. This is the only one in the United States.

What’s So Funny?
These familiar faces are but a few of the newspaper comic-strip characters that have made us laugh out loud or otherwise captivated us for more than a century. More than just ”the funnies”, comic strips document our cultural history, offer social and political commentary, stir controversy, and provide a daily dose of humour, adventure or drama.

For 22 years, the Freedom Forum educated people about the five freedoms of the First Amendment and the importance of a free and fair press through an innovative interactive museum called the Newseum.

The brainchild of Freedom Forum and USA TODAY founder Al Neuharth, the first Newseum was located in Rosslyn, Va., just outside Washington, D.C., from 1997-2002. It featured eight sections of the Berlin Wall, a gallery of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs and the News History Gallery, displaying 500 years of print news history. Interactive exhibits invited visitors to weigh in on ethical debates journalists face, and play TV anchor in the Be a TV Reporter experience.

At the Newseum, visitors experienced the story of news, the role of a free press in major events in history, and how the core freedoms of the First Amendment — religion, speech, press, assembly and petition — apply to their lives.

After five successful years in Rosslyn, the Freedom Forum purchased a prominent location on historic Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., enlisting award-winning architect James Stewart Polshek to design a building, with exhibits by Ralph Appelbaum.

Located halfway between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, the building made a powerful statement, the 45 words of the First Amendment etched into a 75-foot tall tablet of Tennessee marble facing Pennsylvania Avenue. With 15 galleries and 15 theaters, the Newseum opened April 11, 2008, to great fanfare. It had two state-of-the-art television studios and was a sought-after spot for conferences, weddings, movie premieres and other special events.

Visitors, who embraced the Newseum experience, enjoyed exhibits including the 9/11 Gallery Sponsored by Comcast, which displayed the broadcast antennae from the top of the World Trade Center; the Berlin Wall Gallery, whose eight concrete sections are one of the largest displays of the original wall outside Germany; and the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery, which features photographs from every Pulitzer Prize–winning entry dating back to 1942.

More than 60 changing exhibits explored such topics as the FBI and the press; news coverage of Hurricane Katrina; the hunt for the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln; early photographs of presidential candidate John F. Kennedy and press coverage of his 1963 assassination; major moments in the civil rights movement from 1963 to 1968; Stonewall and the rise of the LGBTQ rights movement; as well as a several exhibits featuring the winners of the prestigious worldwide Pictures of the Year competition. Exhibits focusing on popular culture and the news media included “Anchorman: The Exhibit,” based on the comedy film about women entering TV newsrooms in the 1970s, and “Seriously Funny: From the Desk of ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.’”

In 2019, Time magazine named the Newseum one of the “world’s greatest places.”

But the financial obligations associated with operating the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue were burdensome, and in January 2019 the Freedom Forum entered into an agreement to sell the building to Johns Hopkins University. After 11 years and 11 million visitors, the Newseum closed its doors on Pennsylvania Avenue on Dec. 31, 2019. The Freedom Forum hopes to find a suitable location to serve as the Newseum’s next home but that process will take time.

The Freedom Forum will move to temporary offices in downtown Washington, D.C. in 2020, where the organization will continue to carry out its mission to foster First Amendment freedoms for all. Today, the Newseum hosts traveling exhibits that have been displayed in galleries around the globe. [source]

555 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

March 23rd, 2019

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Expressionistic in name and style.

Introduced by President John F. Kennedy and written by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a lifelong advocate for urban design excellence, the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture promoted federal government architecture that would “reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor and stability of the American National Government” and “embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development Building, the first to be built according to the principles, also symbolized the values of a newly created cabinet-level department committed to addressing the urban decline caused by the wave of post-World War II suburbanization.

The HUD headquarters was designed by world-renowned architect Marcel Breuer and his associate Herbert Beckhard for a site in the Southwest urban renewal area that would show the federal government’s commitment to urban reinvestment. Breuer used concrete in bold and innovative ways to create an Expressionist building with a sweeping, curvilinear X-shaped form. This represents the first use of precast and cast-in-place concrete as the structural and finish material for a federal building, and it was also the first fully modular federal building.

The building was renamed in 1999 to honor Washington native Robert C. Weaver, who served as Lyndon Johnson’s HUD Secretary from 1966-68 and was the first African American member of a Presidential cabinet. The building was constructed from 1965 to 1968 and includes a 1990 plaza redesign by landscape architect Martha Schwartz. [source: DC Historic Sites. Note: the site refers to Marcel Breuer as a French Architect, whereas he was actually Hungarian]

It is -unsurprisingly- listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Washington, D.C.

March 23rd, 2019

The Champion

Chris Evert

Tennis match after tennis match, Chris Evert was the picture of composed aggression as she sliced, lobbed, and, with two fists, backhanded her way to victory, amassing an astonishing career-winning record of 90 percent. Between 1974, with her first French Open championship, and 1986, with her record seventh, she collected eighteen Grand Slam singles titles, including two at the Australian Open, three at Wimbledon, and six at the U.S. Open. Evert was one of the last major champions to use a wooden tennis racquet; her one-time fiancé Jimmy Connors had switched to metal, and her greatest rival, Martina Navratilova, was swinging a graphite model.

Known as ”America’s Sweetheart” for her on-court femininity, Evert also became known as the ”Ice Maiden” for her steely nerves. Even in defeat, which was rare, Evert was always the gracious competitor. In 1995, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Photograph by Al Satterwhite (from the 1973 original)

National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

March 22nd, 2019

Meet Ms Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein, 1874-1946

American expatriate writer Gertrude Stein was a high priestess of early-twentieth-century modernism for the many who visited her fabled Paris apartment. She collected and promoted the art of the avant-garde, including that of Picasso and Matisse, and her own abstract, repetitive prose inspired the experiments of playwrights, composers, poets, and painters. ”There was an eternal quality about her,” sculptor Jo Davidson wrote. ”She somehow symbolized wisdom.” He chose to depict her here as ”a sort of modern Buddha.” Delighted by the sculpture, Stein composed one of her famous prose portraits of Davidson, later published in Vanity Fair alongside a photograph of his work.

Jo Davidson (1883-1952)
Terracotta, 1922-23

PS: A bronze version is included in the vast Met Collection, in NYC.

PS1: Another bronze version can be seen in Bryant Park, NYC.

PS2: A terracotta head portrait of Gertrude Stein, produced at the same time Davidson was completing the full-figure cast bronze edition, is at the Columbus Museum, in GA

PS3: Another bronze version apparently belongs to the Whitney, in NYC, but is not on view.

PS4: A photo of Gertrude Stein posing for Jo Davidson, by Man Ray in 1922, is at the Getty Museum, in L.A. Man Ray photographed Stein for the first time in 1922, and was granted exclusive rights to photograph her until 1930.

PS5: Finally, click on the link for the portrait of Jo Davidson by Gertrude Stein in Vanity Fair, February 1923.

National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

March 22nd, 2019

Industrial Design || Electronic Superhighway

The industrial lines within the National Portrait Gallery, paired to perfection with the outlines of the United States on

Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995-96
forty-nine-channel closed-circuit video installation, neon, steel, and electronic components
by Nam June Paik

Electronic Superhighway is Nam June Paik’s tribute to the United States, his adopted homeland. Paik, born in Korea in 1932, moved to New York in 1964 and lived in America until his death in 2006.

Though the outlines of the fifty states are familiar, Electronic Superhighway challenges the viewer to look with new eyes at the cultural map of the United States. Each state is represented by video footage reflecting the artist’s personal, and often unexpected connections to his artistic friends – composer John Cage in Massachusetts, performance artist Charlotte Moorman in Arkansas, and choreographer Merce Cunningham in Washington. Some states he knew best through classic movies – The Wizard of Oz appears for Kansas, Showboat for Mississippi, and South Pacific for Hawaii. Sometimes he chose video clips or assembled flickering slideshows that evoke familiar associations, such as the Kentucky Derby, Arizona highways, and presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa. Topical events such as the fires of the 1993 Waco siege or Atlanta’s 1996 summer Olympics create portraits of moments in time. Old black-and-white television footage and audio of Martin Luther King’s speeches recall Civil Rights struggles in Alabama. California has the fastest-paced imagery: racing through the Golden Gate Bridge, the zeros and ones of the digital revolution, and a fitness class led by O.J. Simpson. A mini-cam captures images of Superhighway’s viewers and transmits those images to a tiny screen representing Washington, D.C. making visitors a part of the story.

Nam June Paik is hailed as the ”father of video art” and credited with the first use of the term ”information superhighway” in the 1970s. He recognized the potential for media collaboration among people in all parts of the world, and he knew that media would completely transform our lives. Electronic Superhighway – constructed of 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3.750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicoloured neon tubing – is a testament to the ways media defined one man’s understanding of a diverse nation.

National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

March 22nd, 2019