For nine days only, the National Museum of American History will display historical objects saved from 9/11 in an intimate and powerful way
For most of us, September 11 is only a media event, lived vicariously through commentaries of journalists and designated "experts" who analyze yet again the familiar video clips that have become the collective public memory of that day. It is history through a flat screen. It should be more.
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of September 11, the National Museum of American History will provide a unique look at historical objects saved from September 11, 2001. Our presentation will be an unusual blend of a public program and a simple display of artifacts -- a display, not a full exhibition. I think you will find it an unforgettable experience.
The objects were there; they were part of it all. Their power lives in their authenticity and their mute, unchanging simplicity. At this tenth anniversary, we are drawn to see and respond to them viscerally: twisted steel, singed clothing, melted plastic, a phone that provided a vital connection in an emergency, a battered fire-engine door.
Our display will be a museum experience reduced to its essence: we will show artifacts that the Smithsonian has chosen to preserve in perpetuity to document this turning point in our history. As we view and contemplate them, they give us continued insight about what happened and why, and how events of that day are affecting our present and future. It is a relationship that matures over time. While these artifacts stay the same, we move on. Their meaning continually changes.
But not yet. Not this year. Our goal on this tenth anniversary is to stimulate personal memories. These objects ask each viewer to look back at the shock and horror of that day, and answer the simple question: How has this historic event changed your life?
See more posts from and about the Smithsonian.
This post was first published on the National Museum of American History's O Say Can You See? blog.
Images: 1. World Trade Center sign; 2. United Airlines Flight 93 log; Brooklyn Squad 1 fire truck door/Smithsonian Institution.