Each Saturday morning, Gary Kelman takes off his environmental regulatory cap, hops on the MARC train at the Odenton stop for the short trip to Washington, D.C., then is in utter bliss during the next five hours in what he calls his real passion away from the office.
Gary, who heads MDE’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) program, is a docent at the Newseum, the country’s preeminent media/first amendment museum. His enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge of its collection usually means that he will be shepherding yet another tour group through the huge, six-story building, located on Pennsylvania Avenue between the U.S. Capitol and White House.
It’s an all in the family kind of hobby, Gary said.
“My mother in law was one of the original docents at the Hirshhorn Art Museum and she did that 40 years,” Gary said. “My wife was always trying to get me involved in art and took me to art museums all the time. But I fell in love with the Newseum the first time I went to it because it has so many things I am interested in like news and history.”
Spend 30 minutes with Gary and you feel like you have taken that tour yourself.
One of his favorite talking points is his tour’s first stop at the Pennsylvania Terrace on the sixth floor and its sweeping panorama of the Capitol Mall. A number of visitors ask why the next-door Canadian Embassy is in such a prime location compared to the rest of the countries in the world. Gary explains that President Reagan offered the space because of Canada’s assistance in the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979 hostage crisis.
Then it’s on to Gary’s favorite area, the Pulitzer Prize photographs gallery.
“We have the largest collection of these photos in the world, even more than the internet has,” he said. “My favorite photo there is the Nigerian women track relay team celebrating after their Olympic event. They had only finished in fourth or fifth place but it was just the sheer joy of finishing that high against the best in the world.”
Gary said he also could spend days just reading in the Reporting Vietnam, New York Times Great Hall of News, 9/11 and First Amendment galleries.
“It’s really sad that only 3 percent of people are versed with the First Amendment but 30 percent know the first name of The Simpsons. That means we have a lot of explaining to do to visitors,” Gary said.
Some of the most popular conversation items by tour groups in the museum don’t involve coverage of the news, Gary said. For example, the museum has the shoe of terrorist Richard Reid, who attempted to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with a shoe bomb in 2001. Also, the door vandalized by burglars at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington in 1972 and the broadcast tower from the Twin Towers on 9/11.
“I use a lot of anecdotes when I am giving tours and people turn in a lot of comment cards complimenting me and saying that the hour they spent was the highlight of their time in the Newseum,” Gary said.
Gary, who was selected MDE employee of the year in 2010, has worked for the State of Maryland for 35 years and is a former president of the National Association of Environmental Professionals. Gary has a B.S. in life sciences from Philadelphia University and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland.
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230