Just as the Civil War was the first major event documented by the new medium of photography, September 11 was extensively covered digitally
David Allison's recent blog post explaining the upcoming commemoration ends with the question, "How did September 11 change your life?" As a professional, it sent me off into a new collecting area. Just as the Civil War was the first major event documented by the new medium of photography, September 11 was extensively covered digitally. Here in the Photographic History collection, gathering images for the museum and Bearing Witness to History (the museum's first anniversary exhibition displayed in 2002), we quickly learned that September 11 was also a story about the history of digital photography.
When my colleague Michelle Delaney and I began making choices about which photos to acquire for the museum, we selected works that were within the scope of our general collecting strategy. The Photographic History Collection -- the first collection of photography in a U.S. museum -- preserves the art, technology, and history of photography through images and apparatus. Michelle and I had studied technological transitions in photography from previous eras, and it became clear that we were in the midst of another. The shared global experience of the immediacy and intensity of that horrific day was largely due to the use of digital technology by amateurs and professionals. We didn't have to wait to process film and dry prints.