Curators make hard choices at 9/11 museum

Tue Sep 6, 2011 4:55pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Curators are making hard choices at the museum memorializing the September 11, 2001 attacks at the site of the World Trade Center's toppled twin towers, aiming to convey the horror of the event without trespassing into ghoulishness.

"We're not here to traumatize our visitors," said Alice Greenwald, director of New York's 9/11 Memorial Museum that is due to open in its underground home at the Ground Zero site next year on the 11th anniversary of the attacks.

"Monumental artifacts are one thing, but we also have a human story to tell," Greenwald said.

Some of the most potentially disturbing exhibits are being set aside from the main exhibition spaces in special alcoves to allow visitors a chance to decide whether or not to view it.

It is here that museum curators have placed material such as images of people plummeting from the burning towers after the buildings were struck by airliners hijacked by al Qaeda militants, and a recording of the measured voice of a flight attendant aboard one of the planes moments before her death.

For museum curators, deciding whether to include examples of some victims' painful final moments was one of their toughest dilemmas as they sought to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed without piling more grief onto the living.

It's a familiar problem for people aiming to memorialize wars and atrocities.

"We're not just a history museum, we're also a memorial institution and so the tension that happens between commemoration and documentation is a flash point," Greenwald said in an interview at the museum's offices overlooking the ongoing construction of a facility that will occupy seven stories below ground at the World Trade Center site.   Continued...

 
<p>A recovered FDNY Squad 252 helmet belonging to deceased FDNY member Kevin M. Prior is seen in this photograph before becoming a part of the National September 11 Memorial &amp; Museum in New York August 22, 2011. Kevin Prior, a firefighter with Brooklyn's Squad 252, can be seen in video footage of the North Tower lobby recorded after the first plane hit getting ready to go upstairs. Responding to a mayday call sent out by fellow firefighters encountering breathing problems, he and five other members of the squad are thought to have been on a floor in the 20s when the tower collapsed. Prior's body was found three weeks after the attacks and buried on Long Island, but his mother was troubled that his helmet had not been returned to the family, and said as much in a television interview. An employee at the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner happened to catch the broadcast, recognized Prior's squad and badge numbers, and hand-delivered the badly damaged helmet to his grateful family. The museum, which occupies seven stories below the ground of the World Trade Center site--is still being built at the site of the fallen towers. It is due only to open in 2012, on the 11th anniversary of the attacks. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>