Let me introduce myself and explain why I think the National Law Enforcement Museum is such an exciting and important project.
I am the former executive director of the Newseum, an international museum on news and news events, located in Washington, D.C., at 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, just a few short blocks from our location. I served in that same position for the Newseum in Arlington, Va., when it opened in its first location in 1996. So, I have had the privilege of being part of the process of creating, designing and building two world-class museums in the Washington metro area and am thrilled to be involved in the creation of a third.
I spent most of my career in the news business working for a number of papers in Chicago, the Detroit Free Press and as one of the founding editors who launched USA Today and worked there as it grew to become the largest circulation daily in the country. In the early 1990s, a group of my colleagues from USA Today began working on a concept for a museum about news and the importance of a free press. I joined them early in 1996 when the project was just about at the point where the National Law Enforcement Museum is today. I’ve been working in museums ever since.
The similarities between a museum about news and a museum about law enforcement may not be immediately apparent, but the National Law Enforcement Museum and the Newseum have a lot in common. Both are museums about powerful ideas that use modern storytelling techniques to bring those ideas alive in a way that is both educational and entertaining. At the core of the National Law Enforcement Museum is the idea that law enforcement is essential to a democratic society. The core message of the Newseum is that free speech – and a free press – is the cornerstone of democracy. Both tell stories about the universal and age-old human quest for freedom. People are not free if their safety is threatened, just as people are not free if their ability to express themselves is suppressed.
Throughout history people have put their lives on the line for these freedoms, and appropriately, both the Newseum and the National Law Enforcement Museum projects began with memorials to those who were killed or died while trying to do their jobs.
For the launch of the Newseum in Washington, we worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to create an exhibit about the Bureau’s 100-year history. It was to be the Newseum’s first “changing” exhibit. However, it proved to be so popular with visitors that it remains in place to this day, still waiting to be changed out, more than four years later. I see this as a tangible proof of concept for the National Law Enforcement Museum. The story of law enforcement and the stories of law enforcement officers are a deep and rich well of information, history and drama upon which to draw. They are the building blocks of a great museum, and I look forward to putting them in place along with the bricks and mortar, glass and steel of the Museum’s physical structure.
The Museum is an initiative of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a private non-profit 501(c)(3) organization established in 1984, dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers and to promoting officer safety. For more information about the National Law Enforcement Museum, visit www.LawEnforcementMuseum.org.