The Newseum became a little bit more of a big deal on Wednesday as "Anchorman: The Exhibit" was unveiled.
The exhibit — created in partnership with Paramount Pictures, which is releasing "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" on Dec. 20 — brings together some of the more iconic artifacts from the 2004 Will Ferrell comedy "Anchorman," including the Channel 4 news desk, Sex Panther Cologne and Ron Burgundy's burgundy suit.
"Maybe our ruby slippers are Ron Burgundy's signature suit," Carrie Christoffersen, the Newseum's director of collections, said at Wednesday's press walk-through. She was referring to Dorothy's footwear from "The Wizard of Oz," which is prominently displayed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The 60-odd items at the Newseum exhibit are all on loan, but Christoffersen said they could potentially look into an acquisition.
Some of the reporters at the walk-through posed questions to museum staff along the lines of the appropriateness of a high-end venue like the Newseum displaying something as pop as "Anchorman." But the exhibit is a breezy addition to the Newseum, which has its share of memorials to slain journalists. And it also reflects an interesting aspect of journalism history, when "eyewitness news" formats swept local news scenes and women started to come into their own in newsrooms and on the screen.
In addition to fictional television reporters, such as Ted Knight's Ted Baxter on the "Mary Tyler Moore" show and Candice Bergen's Murphy Brown, the exhibit highlights the non-fictional aspects of the genre, such as the real story behind that water-skiing squirrel (that was Twiggy the Squirrel on WFTV-TV in Orlando, Fla., in 1979), and women being pressured to conform to the all-male locker-room atmospheres.
One segment shows Cleveland reporter Del Donahoo being mauled by a lion at an Elyria, Ohio, shopping mall. In "Anchorman," a San Diego Zoo segment where reporters are in danger is played for laughs. In Elyria, Donahoo needed 48 stitches for covering a lion-taming act.
Judy Woodruff, currently co-anchor of PBS's "NewsHour," is featured in another part of the exhibit, which relays that she was "ordered to cut her shoulder-length hair in 1972 as an anchor at WAGA-TV in Atlanta. 'I had to go along. It was either that or quit,'" she is quoted as saying.
The exhibit, which is manageable and easy to enjoy, has a light touch, but it also has contains some decent sociological value. There's a marketing component, sure. That seems in line both with the story of 1970s news teams trying to reach new audiences, as well as the strange journalistic times we find ourselves in now.
The exhibit opens to the public on Thursday. Ferrell will be in town to help christen it on Dec. 3 and on Dec. 17, the Newseum is hosting an already-sold out screening of "Anchorman 2" and will unveil its companion exhibit for the sequel. It all runs through August 2014.