Last year I was invited to be part of the trip the Newseum1 in downtown DC. The Newseum is a museum that is dedicated the history of the news and the freedom of the press. The museum, like other DC museums, has rotating exhibits as well as permanent features. On this trip the Kennedys2 and the history of the Civil Rights movement3 were the highlighted visiting exhibits. As someone who tries to stay up-to-date on current events this museum is amazing, and while amazing, the displays leave me with a feeling that lasts a couple of days.
I took my 8th grade photography students along with two other 7th grade digital communications classes. My students were asked to visit the Pulitzer Prize gallery on the main floor. This gallery is full of award winning photographs, many happy, but more not so happy. There are images of war, tragedy, and famine that are hung next to photos of soldiers coming home, Babe Ruth, and President Obama. My students were asked to collect the information about the photos and to share their thoughts on their own webpages. The serious attitude that they displayed when looking at the images impressed me. They were thoughtful, questioning, and respectful of the photographers and the subjects in the photos. To see photos from Columbine, Oklahoma City, September 11th, and Katrina all bring back a flood of memories and emotion. With each photograph comes the back story. You find out what happened before and after the photo. Many of the results are heartbreaking. My students said while some of the photos were very intense, it was worth seeing.
There are two other places I wanted to check out, for a second time on this trip. The 9/11 display as well as the FBI exhibit. As a kid that grew up traveling to every historical landmark and site growing up, I love primary sources. The FBI exhibit is full of primary sources from some of the biggest investigations that I have been alive for. There is landing gear from 9/11, DC Sniper artifacts, and even the Unabombers cabin just sitting there for you to look at.
The 9/11 display is a powerful one for me because I can remember just about everything from that day. I remember where I was standing and the 4th graders that were in my classroom when the 2nd plane hit. The wall are covered with the front pages of newspapers from around the world. On the backside of one of the walls there are 2 TV’s that show the story of a photographer that lost his life documenting that day from ground level. His friend would find his body and cameras in the rubble of the WTC. His cameras were destroyed but his film was still intact. The photos on the rolls were developed and displayed around the screens. The photos show the scene as he gets closer and closer to ground zero. His last photo shows the building collapsing on top of him. I am not sure if I would have done the same thing. I don’t think I would have walked towards the building in the first place. I have asked my students to answer that same question “Could you have taken the picture?”. Without his work, there are moments from that day that would never been seen.
Below are other shots taken on the trip. It’s a great trip that can work for photography classes like mine, as well as journalism and history. I recommend it, and my students do as well.
I immediately saw this photo and was joyful. ~Bella
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- photo from http://www.newseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/facebook_og_image.jpg
- Let’s face it, the Kennedys are made for photographs.
- This is on my list for the spring.