By: Sonya Moore
The Newseum’s work is never done. Sure, it acquired more than 500 journalism-related artifacts in 2003, but it’s still looking for, among other things, a press used in a Japanese-American internment camp and an old airplane known as the “Miss Daily News.”
With much more display space promised in its new Washington, D.C., facility, The Freedom Forum’s interactive museum can now handle larger objects. One of its recent acquisitions, for example, is the damaged Datsun of The Arizona Republic’s investigative reporter Don Bolles, who was killed in 1976 when a bomb exploded inside it.
Though the Newseum knew about the car for years, it sat in a police impound lot in Arizona while the museum worked to finalize the acquisition with the police and Bolles’ family. The auto now rests in the museum’s new storage warehouse in the Maryland suburbs. It will be showcased in the new museum’s “Dateline Danger” gallery, which highlights the risks reporters run in their profession.
Margaret Engel, managing editor of the Newseum who oversees the Research and News History Department, told E&P, “It is a way to let visitors know visually just how frequently journalists put their lives on the line.”
Engel promised the exhibition wouldn’t rely on shock value, and would be handled in a “somber” manner. Other artifacts will include a pen used by Veronica Guerin, the Irish reporter whose coverage of Dublin’s underworld led to her assassination in 1996 (and played by Cate Blanchett in a 2003 movie); a truck that Time magazine staffers used in Sarajevo, vented by ammunition fire; and an 8-by-3 foot sign from “Sniper Alley” in the Balkans.
Other recent Newseum acquisitions include a receipt from 1802 that confirms payment for Thomas Jefferson’s newspaper subscription, the original AP and UPI Teletype wire copy associated with the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and images captured by photojournalist Charles Del Vecchio, who was a member of The Washington Post’s staff for more than 40 years. The expanded museum will open to visitors on Pennsylvania Avenue in early 2007.
The new items bring the tally up to 5,500 artifacts, and that number doesn’t even include the Newseum’s collection of more than 40,000 historic front pages. Most of these items fell into the hands of the museum through conversations with journalism groups, by sending out mailings and making cold calls.
This approach, Engel says, sometimes leads to frustrating searches for certain items. She’d love to get her hands on a press used for creating newspapers in a Japanese internment camp during the 1940s, that was displayed at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. And though she found out that 86 newspapers were published in the camps, Engel has had no luck in finding a similar press.
The Newseum also wants airplanes used by newspapers during the 1930s and 1940s for reporters covering out-of-town stories. Engel mentioned specifically the “Miss Daily News” which is pictured being christened with a gallon of printer’s ink by Josephine Patterson, daughter of then-New York Daily News Publisher Joseph Patterson.
Another item from the Daily News’ history on the Newseum’s wish list is a hearse that was converted into a darkroom to process the infamous photo of Ruth Snyder’s 1928 electrocution at Sing-Sing prison. Engel has been in constant contact with a variety of sources ranging from hearse collectors to car museums and even funeral trade associations to get this particular vehicle, and the hunt continues.