WASHINGTON — On Jan. 25, the Freedom Forum — the creator and primary funder of the Newseum —announced that it has recently entered into an agreement to sell the building in which the Newseum is located to Johns Hopkins University. The university will use the building as a new consolidated center for its D.C.-based graduate programs.
The deal remains subject to all necessary regulatory approvals, and the Newseum will remain open to the public in this location through 2019.
The sale comes at the conclusion of a 16-month strategic review, announced in August 2017, of the Freedom Forum’s funding priorities, including an assessment of the Newseum’s unsustainable operating costs. The purpose of the review was to identify financially responsible solutions for the building through creative partnerships, a partial sale, leaseback scenarios, or other joint ventures. Despite those efforts, the Freedom Forum review made clear that a sale of the facility was the best path forward to enable the organization and its affiliates to continue their First Amendment-based mission. Johns Hopkins will acquire the property for $372.5 million.
Since its opening in 2008, the Freedom Forum has committed more than $600 million to build and fund the Newseum, one of the largest gifts to any museum anywhere in the world.
“This was a difficult decision, but it was the responsible one,” said Jan Neuharth, chair and CEO of the Freedom Forum. “We remain committed to continuing our programs – in a financially sustainable way – to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment and to increase public awareness about the importance of a free and fair press. With today’s announcement, we can begin to explore all options to find a new home in the Washington, DC area.”
“The Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue has delighted millions with its entertaining and educational exhibits, garnering five-star reviews from critics and visitors alike,” said Peter Prichard, chair of the Newseum board of trustees. “Our patrons learned about the joys, the duties, and even the dangers journalists experience in their work, and why a free and fair press is so important to a well-functioning democracy.
“We stand ready to continue much of the Newseum’s important work for decades to come — through digital outreach, traveling exhibits, and web-based programs in schools around the world, as well as hopefully in a new physical home in the area.”
“All of the artifacts on display in the museum will remain on exhibit for our visitors to learn from while the details of the agreement are settled,” said Carrie Christoffersen, curator and executive director of the Newseum. “Our collection preserves journalism and news history, and we will continue to be responsible stewards of our permanent collection of historic artifacts and newspapers.”
The mission of the Newseum, located in Washington, DC, is to increase public understanding of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment. Visitors experience the story of news, the role of a free press in major events in history, and how the core freedoms of the First Amendment — religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition — apply to their lives.
The Newseum is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including its principal funder, the Freedom Forum. The Freedom Forum — dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people — is a nonpartisan private foundation that champions the five freedoms of the First Amendment.
Established July 4, 1991 by founder Al Neuharth, the Freedom Forum is the principal funder of the Newseum and the Freedom Forum Institute, and sponsors work to educate the public about the importance of the First Amendment. It also supports newsroom diversity and excellence in journalism, with programs including the Power Shift Project, the annual Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, the Chips Quinn Scholars and the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media.
Photo: Maria Bryk/Newseum