National September 11 Memorial Museum

National September 11 Memorial Museum (146)

To visit the National September 11 Memorial Museum, better known by its short name, “9/11 Memorial Museum”, head to Memorial Plaza in the grounds of the New World Trade Center. The museum is accessed through a glass pavilion that was designed by the architectural firm Snøhetta and is the only building in the square. It is somewhat paradoxical that the building that houses the museum is the only building that extends above ground level and that most of the museum exhibits are in housed underground galleries. The architects conceived the pavilion as “bridge between two worlds”.

This commemorative museum pays tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and 26 February 1993 that occurred at the World Trade Center. It is also a tribute to all those who risked their lives to save others, those who survived the tragedy and have left their testimony, and all the volunteers who showed their solidarity and courage in the hours and days following the terrorist attack. 

What will you see at this museum? An extensive collection of over 10,300 objects, all rescued from the rubble of the World Trade Center or donated by relatives of the victims. These objects include 37 large-scale artefacts, such as a fire engine that came to the rescue and pieces of metal from the buildings that were reduced to rubble. The vast collection in this museum also includes personal belongings, photographs and recordings by witnesses to the attack, as well as multimedia clips and short videos in which citizens express their condolences and pay particular tribute to the victims. 

Upon entering the museum, you will be faced with fork-shaped rusted beams known as The Tridents, which once formed part of the façade of the North Tower. These 24-metre beams dominate the entrance hall (the Pavilion), a large, impressive space with high ceilings. They are the first remains of the tragedy you'll see at the museum. Make your way down a staircase and you'll come to Memorial Hall, where you'll see a mosaic wall made up of 2,983 tiles to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks in 2001 and 1993. Each tile is a different shade of blue. According to the artist of this work, Spencer Finch, it was designed to recall the blue sky on 11 September 2001. There is a text rendered in steel letters (made of steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center) that quotes a famous phrase from Virgil's Aeneid: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time”. 

This museum is composed of two main galleries, where the permanent exhibitions are housed, and two further galleries that house audiovisual or temporary exhibitions. Visiting the Historical Exhibition takes you on a journey through the recent history of the World Trade Center, from its original construction in the 1960s to that fateful day in September 2001, and ends with a look back at the pain and uncertainty that flooded New York City, and particularly the World Trade Center, after 11 September. The museum also has a time lapse showing the reconstruction of Ground Zero projected on a wide screen. 

But if there is one heart-wrenching gallery that will take your breath away and give you goosebumps, it is undoubtedly In Memoriam. A large panel of photographs of each of the victims of the attacks occupies the corridor wall that leads to the main room. Smiling faces of women, men, WTC employees and rescue staff. Lives that were cut short by a brutal terrorist attack. Arriving at the gallery, touch screens allow you to read the biography of each of the victims and some memories that their family members wanted to share with all of us. In Memoriam is a gallery of remembrance that individually honours each of the people killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

As you can see, this is not a regular museum. It is a tangible testimony to the 11 September attacks. A shocking testimony, yet one that provides relief for the families of the victims and for those who survived the tragedy. A remembrance museum that receives thousands of visitors every day, visitors eager to experience, from within, the day that shocked New York City and the world. 

The numbers speak for themselves. Since opening its doors in May 2014, the museum has welcomed over four million visitors. 

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