YOKOHAMA — A museum visit is not likely to raise the pulse rates of children these days, and a museum dedicated to newspapers seems certain to draw only yawns.
|A typical newspaper vendor from the last century, when Japanese dailies began to boom, is displayed at Newspark in Yokohama. A rotary press (below) stands in the entrance hall.|
Yet, officials of Newspark are confident they can grab the attention of tech-savvy kids, diverting their eyes from TV games long enough for them to gain an understanding of newspaper newsrooms.
Even more ambitiously, they hope the museum will help reverse the trend of young people reading less.
The museum, which occupies four floors of the 12-story Yokohama Media and Communications Center building, is set to open to the public Oct. 13 in Yokohama, where Japan’s first daily was born in 1870.
The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association, which funds the institution, conceived the idea of creating such a museum 13 years ago. So far, 150,000 items — more than the museum can display at one time — have since been collected, including many donated by private collectors and news organizations.
As visitors enter the museum, they will be greeted by a huge rotary press, which was donated by a local paper in Shizuoka Prefecture after retiring it from service last year.
“We had been thinking about adopting a real rotary press as the symbol of this museum from the beginning of the plan,” said Toshimi Sato, director of the Japan Newspaper Foundation for Education and Culture, which runs the museum.
In the history section of the museum, visitors will learn about the development of the country’s newspapers. They will also see a history of Japanese society through contemporary newspaper articles.
Newspark, however, is not just putting old clippings and black-and-white pictures on display, Sato said. The museum is also utilizing modern multimedia technology in its presentations.
In a mock silent movie theater of the early Showa Era (1926-1989), a rubber-skinned robot replaces the live narration that would have accompanied the newsreel pictures of the day, with its only possible fault being that it is too human.
“I am afraid no one will watch the screen, with their eyes fixed on him,” Sato said.
Like many other museums, antique items are also on display, including old printing tools such as tiny character blocks.
“The hardest part is to obtain copyright permission for each item on display,” Sato said. “Many of them are very old, and it’s very difficult to track down the rights’ holders.”
The museum also features a contemporary zone where visitors learn about the daily activities of reporters. The display features a Cessna airplane, which had been used by a major daily until 1996. Nearby is a radio van that had been dispatched to news front lines to transmit transcripts until 1990.
In the center of the contemporary zone, a three-paneled screen plays video footage, reproducing the scene at a major daily’s newsroom on the last day of 1999. Already jittery about the Y2K problem, editors around the world were stunned by the news of the sudden resignation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
The audience also learns how morning newspaper editors update their pages, edition by edition, to put out the latest news from around the world.
But reporters and editors alone cannot produce a newspaper, thus, the museum also sheds light on contributors whose activities are relatively unknown to the public.
In the advertisement corner, a screen shows how a newspaper ad is brought together, reproducing a scene at a major daily when an ad for the release of a newly revised dictionary is created. Visitors are also welcome to try their hand at making a mock newspaper ad, using a machine that resembles one for making “purikura” seals.
There is also a section devoted to people who deliver newspapers. Here, visitors will find a video game in which players ride a stationary bike and see how many newspapers they can deliver while avoiding mean dogs and other obstacles.
Aside from the variety of exhibitions, the museum has a library specializing in newspapers, which officials tout as the only one of its kind in Japan. It houses all the dailies published by the JNPEA’s 111 member organizations and will eventually obtain the entire back issues of those papers on microfilm.
Museum officials said they expect at least 150,000 visitors during the first year. Most of the items on display have explanations in English as well as Japanese.
“While the museum has a dead-serious image, it is actually not,” Sato said. “I hope children will develop interest in newspapers through visiting this museum.”
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