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A Marvel of a Museum and Newsworthy, Too

Visitors will enter the Newseum atrium, the gee-whiz space around which the galleries are deployed. At the atrium's east end, three glass elevators, each the size of a small bus, will take visitors to exhibits at the top level. From there they "will be transported through time from the dawn of the age of the printed word to the cutting edge of the digital age," said Joe Urschel, the museum's executive director. Winding their way down through the levels, visitors will determine their own pace and path of travel.

And what a travel experience! The Newseum's interior, like the exterior, is a visually dynamic collage of vertically and horizontally interlocking spaces varying in shape, area and height. Volumes nest within volumes. Surfaces are clad in metal, glass, terrazzo and carpet. Wood veneers add warm accents. Custom-designed illumination is artfully done and sometimes includes the use of daylight. Periodically there are breathtaking views of the Capitol and the Mall.

Inside, there will be 15 theaters with more than 100 video productions; 14 major galleries displaying 3,800 images and 6,214 artifacts, including portions of the Berlin Wall and a 40-foot guard tower; news "crawls" and immense video screens; two state-of-the-art broadcast studios; 130 interactive stations throughout the building; and, of course, a cafeteria and a gift shop.

The Newseum will be a hit, thanks in part to the marriage of architectural form and journalistic exhibits. Normally, adult admission will be $20. The April 11 grand opening, when admission is free, is likely to attract thousands who will spend hours exploring and interacting.

During the first year of operation, the Newseum and The Washington Post will sponsor free admission for groups of schoolchildren from the District, Maryland and Virginia. I wouldn't be surprised if those visits inspire some of the students to become journalists or architects.

Roger K. Lewis is a practicing architect and a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland.


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