Newseum Hopes that Ron Burgundy can Save Them


The Newseum open as an institution dedicated to the First Amendment and the people that cover the news. 

Now it's putting its future in the hands of a guy that doesn't even exist in real life. 

Ron Burgundy. 

Anchorman: The Exhibit,” which opened Thursday at the Newseum, highlights sexism, the local eyewitness news model and the men determined to keep the ladies out of the anchor chair. Some might question why it even belongs at the Newseum, but a better question might be: Can a blockbuster exhibition heavily tied to pop culture memes help save the struggling Newseum?

The Washington Post writes that since the opening of the $450 million building on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008, the Newseum has had successive rounds of layoffs. A January layoff trimmed 32 of 152 full-time employees from the Newseum and its parent organization, the Freedom Forum, a foundation dedicated to freedom of the press. A few weeks later, around 80 part-time positions were also cut (around a quarter of those were later hired back as full-time staff). For years, the Newseum’s expenses have outpaced revenues.

So, now they hope that Burgundy can put them in the black. 

With “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” out in December, officials are hoping Ron Burgundy and his eyewitness news team can bring visitors in record numbers to help stanch the bleeding. Though most of the Newseum’s previous temporary exhibits are educational or historical — “JFK,” marking the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination the most recent example — the Newseum has dabbled in entertainment in the past, notably with its Elvis exhibition in 2010. It’s putting forward 60 props from “Anchorman,” which Cathy Trost, vice president for Newseum exhibitions, refers to as “artifacts.” There are Ron Burgundy’s jazz flute, groovy leisure suits with airplane lapels and Sex Panther cologne. There’s even Baxter the Dog, a stuffed toy so tattered it looks as though it has been kicked off a bridge one too many times.

The pieces on display are mostly ’70s-era kitsch, and officials are in on the joke. If one notes how movie character Veronica Corningstone’s suit is fraying at the seams, Trost replies, “You’ll remember, she did fall into a bear pit.”