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The King Is Dead*

October - December 2020


It can feel like a phrase that belongs distinctly to our current moment, but it has actually been in use for more than a century. The idea that our “first draft of history” might be a bad draft has been a source of anxiety for as long as there has been news to tell. We want to feel confident that our news isn’t “fake” because it shapes how we start and finish our days, how we understand what’s happening around us, and who we are. But our centuries-long history with the news suggests that “fake” is too blunt a term for the ways the news sometimes fails us. This exhibition doesn’t attempt to tell a comprehensive history of journalism, or even the story of the print newspaper. Instead it offers a sense of the many ways the news can fail to do what we need it to do (a ship was too slow, a prank got out of hand, photography didn’t exist...), and how our expectations of what we need it to do have changed.

Our 2020 Exhibition & Program series The King Is Dead* explores how we understand and use the news—how it guides our daily activities, gives us current information, and does (or doesn’t) relate to the facts. Through historic voices and sources, the exhibition will use print journalism to shed light on how and when people know what they know.

Corresponding educational and cultural programming will examine how we define what is newsworthy; how new platforms are changing the way we consume and share news; and what it means to be “media literate;” among other topics.


Join Jordan Goffin, Head Curator of Collections at PPL, for a 10-part tour of The King Is Dead* exhibition. Watch all 10 parts.

Selected Images from The King Is Dead*