Meg’s Reflections on the 9/11 Museum

PART B: Explore arts as an audience member

9/11 Memorial/Museum Exhibition

On September 11th, 2001, the world as we knew it completely changed when the tragic events of a horrifying terror attack on the World Trade Centre catapulted every human into a reality unknown. In February, whilst visiting New York, I spent a day at the 9/11 national museum and memorial that has been set up to remember the lives of the victims of that day. My visit started with a very sombre and moving look at the physical memorial itself which stood in the exact same spots that the twin towers used to be. The large area had been turned into two stunning water pools that featured the names of all the victims affected by 9/11. Each name carved delicately into the steel, stood out immensely, especially the names that had a white rose next to them which indicated the birthday of the fallen victim. The atmosphere surrounding this area was one of peace and tranquility and I think the exhibitors or creators of this memorial really thought about that when designing it. The symbol and sounds of water radiated a calm feeling for anyone spectating and this generally sets the tone for the rest of the museum experience.

As I made my way to the museum entrance, the first thing I remember noticing was the openness of the building. The large glass panels were purposely built so that you could get a view of the new One World Trade Centre building that replaced the old tower. As you get a glance of the spectacular building, the journey then follows a path going down towards the start of the museum. I felt as though it was a very symbolic path to follow as if I was heading down to the wreckage on the day. It made me feel like I was in the shoes of the people present on that day.

There were a variety of exhibits at the museum. Generally it began with a timeline of events and a lot of photographs and video footage of how the day unfolded. The narrative of the historic day were very clearly portrayed through maps and diagrams and it evoked a feeling of shock and a reminder of what exactly happened that day. It was certainly designed to capture your eye with the use of large photographs and moving images of people on the streets on 9/11. There was no background music as such to follow which was fitting as it was certainly more respectful to be silent whilst taking in everything around you.

Further into the experience, I was greeted with a very large blue coloured wall. The wall must’ve spanned a good few yards and was made out of 2,983 paper pieces(1 piece of paper for each victim of 9/11), each with a different shade of blue. On the wall, read a large quote that said ‘No day shall erase you from the memory of time’. Our tour guide for the day explained that the wall had been created by artist Spencer Finch and that the purpose of the blue wall was to denote the colour of the blue sky on that very September morning. The morning of September 11th for many was remembered as a stunningly beautiful day with no clouds in sight. The artistic quality of this piece was very poignant and it was something that stood out for all to see.

Other interesting parts of the museum included a large exhibit of all the artefacts that were found and kept from that day. Airplane seatbelts, radios belonging to the firemen, police uniforms, high heeled shoes of office workers left behind from the disaster site. So many intriquite items on display that were accompanied by stories of the heroes of 9/11. Around every corner was also an audio theatre. Each theatre followed a different theme or story and the purpose of it was so visitors like myself could sit and listen to the stories of that day by the people who were there themselves. Audio and subtitles were accompanied with moving images relating to the day and it was a very immersive experience to hear the stories. I think the exhibitors aim was to make you feel as if you were in a room having a conversation with that person yourself. Again, it followed that theme of feeling like you were in their shoes. It was a very personal moment that evoked a sombre and sad feeling.

The one thing that stood out the most to me about the 9/11 memorial and museum was how interactive it was. Although there was many a moment to just stand back and physically look at the wreckage and the damage from that day, the small interactive items throughout the whole exhibit was fascinating. I recall coming across an audio station where you could pick up a phone and all you could hear were hundreds and hundreds of repeated voicemails that were left for a certain person from that day. I stood there for 10-15 minutes just listening to the sheer volume of voicemails that were left just for one person. It really hit me hard about how many other people were affected by that day, let alone the individual in question. This was a very clever use of audio and it evoked a feeling in me of surprise and a reminder that not just 2,983 people were affected that day, but hundreds and thousands across the globe.

All in all, the 9/11 memorial and museum was a simply stunning experience. The layout of the museum was exquisite and everything had it’s own individual standout point. One of the hardest hitting rooms within the museum was a gallery room with individual pictures of each and every single victim of that day. In the middle of the picture gallery was a dark projector room with benches placed around the square shaped room. The floor beneath was a see through glass panel that had different mood lighting to it. I took a seat on one of the corner benches and sat there for 10-15 minute whilst I was presented with each victims name, face and story. Descriptive stories told me of their ages, what they did for a living, who they left behind and some individuals were accompanied by a short audio clip from a close family member telling us about their loved one. I felt almost intrusive on such a personal thing but it was fascinating to hear at the same time. I felt honoured that the family members would share such personal details and it certainly evoked a feeling of warmth when you got to hear of all the incredible people from that day.
I entered the 9/11 memorial feeling sad and unprepared for what was to be ahead but I left feeling positive and warm. To take that feeling away from what is such a sad event in the history books was incredible. It was nice to know that the victims of 9/11 and their families had such a poignant tribute left behind for them. It was done with such style and class and it is certainly a recommended visit when in New York.
Above review/article posted to my personal blog on 4/4/2017.
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My Eticket for the museum: