Exhibits of the National Law Enforcement Museum: Reel to Real

Artist's rendering of the Reel to Real exhibit. 
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Exhibits of the National Law Enforcement Museum: Reel to Real

In Reel to Real, visitors will revel in fun movie and TV cop trivia while still learning an important lesson about how reality differs from the Hollywood portrayal of law enforcement.  Here, visitors will be able to examine how their perceptions of American law enforcement may be skewed by fictional presentations of cops.

A large artifact case will contain an amazing array of pop culture objects related to law enforcement.  Arranged chronologically, these artifacts will trace the national interest in policing and how its presentation has changed over the decades.  From the staid portraits of officers on Buchner tobacco cards produced in the late 19th century to an alluring portrait of Angie Dickenson, star of the 1970s police drama Police Woman, it’s evident that the interest in law enforcement has always been high, but its packaging has shifted through the decades.

Visitors will likely be drawn to objects from their generation, whether it’s a Dick Tracy wrist radio from the well-liked comic strip that debuted in 1931 or character Jack Bauer’s sweatshirt from Fox Network’s 24, which premiered seven decades later.

Opposite the artifact case, three touchscreens will offer visitors a chance to see more of their favorite fictional cops. After watching a clip from some selected shows, visitors may vote for their favorite law enforcement show, their favorite fictional cop, the best police car chase, and more. They can then see how their vote compares to that of other visitors.

Walking past a wall of movie posters, visitors will approach the centerpiece of Reel to Real.  In the Cop Critique Theater, real law enforcement officers will provide a lighthearted but accurate assessment of their portrayal in movies and television shows. These real cops will review some of the best and worst Hollywood has to offer and provide a broad critique on everything from procedure to personality. In about 10 minutes, the entertaining Cop Critique show will help to debunk a surprising number of misconceptions about the true nature of law enforcement.

Next month: Spotlight on the Main Theater.


901 E Street, NW, Suite 100 | Washington, DC 20004-2025 | phone 202.737.3400 | fax 202.737.3405
www.LawEnforcementMuseum.org | museum@nleomf.org