We Hold These Truths: Using Emerging Technology to Tell The Story at Washington D.C.’s Newseum

We Hold These Truths: Using Emerging Technology to Tell The Story at Washington D.C.’s Newseum

As an interactive museum that tells the story of the First Amendment and the history of journalism, the Newseum in Washington, D.C. relies on the very latest in AV technology.

Through to the end of 2017, “visitors to the Newseum can wear an HTC Vive headset, and be instantly transported to Cold War Germany in ‘Berlin Wall: The Virtual Reality Experience’,” said Sonya Gavankar, the Newseum’s manager of Public Relations. “Using two handheld motion controllers and HTC Vive’s room-scale technology, visitors can interact with the virtual environment, all while walking around a 10-foot-by-10-foot space that takes them to communist East Berlin.”

The Newseum also features the Top Ten 360-degree videos every month on visitor-accessible touch screens, and offers guests an augmented reality app paired with its Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery. “This app allows visitors to use their own phones, to trigger video interviews with photographers who took some of the winning pictures,” said Mitch Gelman, the Newseum’s CTO and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in his own right.

To keep the Newseum’s seven floors of interactive content informing millions of visitors, the institution fields a team of engineers and audiovisual specialists. They monitor, test, and repair the equipment regularly, plus order and install parts as needed.

“There are 15 galleries, 15 theaters, and two broadcast studios in the Newseum,” said Gelman. As a result, “Our engineers and AV techs update, revise, and renew the kiosks, projectors, screens, electric signage, wireless audio, lighting and other moving parts on a daily basis.”

All of the Newseum’s interactive kiosks and theaters are monitored and controlled by a Central Equipment Room (CER). “From there, we can turn systems on and off, as well as troubleshoot them from a central location,” Gelman said.

Most of the CER’s control functions can also be handled by the Newseum’s Master Control Room, he added. But since the CER systems “provide the primary connectivity for both television studios and all video and audio tie points across the building,” Gelman said, “the Central Equipment Room is the pivotal point for all technical operations in the facility.”

Virtual reality at the Newseum.

The Newseum is always looking to keep its technology current, both for its exhibits and the events it holds. “One of the recent upgrades we made was an update of our Grass Valley K2 record, playback and storage system,” said Gelman.

As for the Newseum’s future use of AV? “We will continue to use emerging technologies to strengthen our mission to protect, defend, and explain the five freedoms of the First Amendment,” he declared.

Visit www.newseum.org for more information.


Mitch Gelman, CTO of the Newseum, was a senior vice president and senior executive producer of CNN.com. He also served as executive editor of CNNSI.com. Gelman shared in a Pulitzer Prize awarded to the New York Newsday staff for spot news reporting in 1992.

Taking Online Learning Further

Interactive AV technology is used to educate and engage at the Newseum.

The Newseum reaches millions of students through its robust offering of on-site classes and workshops that meet national standards of learning. NewseumED, a free online learning platform for teachers and students, demonstrates the Newseum’s commitment to reach all who wish to better understand the five freedoms of the First Amendment and its relationship to history pedagogy, media literacy, and civics.

James Careless

James Careless is an award-winning freelance journalist with extensive experience in audio-visual equipment, AV system design, and AV integration. His credits include numerous articles for Systems Contractor News, AV Technology, Radio World, and TV Tech, among others. Careless comes from a broadcasting background, with credits at CBC Radio, NPR, and NBC News. He currently co-produces/co-hosts the CDR Radio podcast, which covers the Canadian defense industry. Careless is a two-time winner of the PBI Media Award for Excellence.