February 26, 2008

Exhibit Pieces Falling Into Place

News Corporation News History Gallery (Maria Bryk)
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News Corporation News History Gallery (Maria Bryk)

Timeline of history runs 116 feet. (Maria Bryk)
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Timeline of history runs 116 feet. (Maria Bryk)

Historic front pages. (Maria Bryk)
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Historic front pages. (Maria Bryk)

Historic front pages. (Maria Bryk)
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Historic front pages. (Maria Bryk)

One of eight thematic display cases. (Maria Bryk)
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One of eight thematic display cases. (Maria Bryk)
Reporter Helen Thomas's trademark red dress. (Maria Bryk)
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Reporter Helen Thomas's trademark red dress. (Maria Bryk)
Daily dose of fake news. (Maria Bryk)
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Daily dose of fake news. (Maria Bryk)
Case examines the media's credibility. (Maria Bryk)
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Case examines the media's credibility. (Maria Bryk)

All over the Newseum, the announcement of the April 11 Grand Opening has inspired a rush of activity as the final pieces of the exhibits fall into place.

Early February saw the installation of the last of the large artifacts, which Carrie Christoffersen, curator of collections, says were the "tipping point" for the rest of the museum.

"Through the end of March, we have installation work planned every day," she said. "We'll be working right up until the museum opens to the public on April 11."

On a recent Friday, the Newseum's largest gallery, the 8,000-square-foot News Corporation News History Gallery, pulsed with staff from the curatorial and collections department. This was their fourth and final day installing historic newspapers, magazines and newsbooks in the gallery's "spine" — a 116-foot-long display of 316 glass cases that forms the backbone of the gallery experience. In one case, an 1860 issue of the Charleston (S.C.) Mercury proclaims "The Union Is Dissolved!" Other publications are housed inside the spine's custom-made glass drawers.

The publications were backed and encapsulated in Mylar before installation. One staffer applied museum wax — a nonpermanent adhesive that won't damage the artifact or display — to adhere each newspaper to pre-sized case inserts. Another staffer used the wax to install labels. Each item was carefully measured with T-squares to ensure straight lines.

Once the publications and labels were secure, two staffers laid the inserts in the glass cases and used specially sized "jigs" — square rods of wood — for even placement within the case. Finally, a staffer carefully wiped the Mylar with a dust cloth, then closed and locked the case to create a protective environment.

Along the gallery's outer walls, staffers busily installed graphics in large, angular glass cases. These displays, based on timeless themes, highlight such issues as anonymous sources, war reporting, sensationalism and media ownership. Here is where visitors will see such varied objects as Bob Woodward's notes investigating the Watergate scandal, war correspondent Ernie Pyle's typewriter and comedian Stephen Colbert's first script about "truthiness."

Much of the Newseum's collection of more than 30,000 historic newspapers was acquired from Eric C. Caren and Stephen A. Goldman, Newseum consultants. Click here to watch a short video about their interest in historic newspapers.

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