Monday, May 23, 2011 BY SHAWN BOBURG, northjersey.com
01- Main stairs into the museum beside the Survivor’s Stairway (covered in wood planks).
Visitors to the 9/11 memorial museum will see a wall of photos of the nearly 3,000 victims. They will hear recorded personal accounts of where people were that fateful day. And they will stand near archaeological remnants of the toppled Twin Towers.
02- Rendering of the underground Slurry Wall and the final column removed from the site, now wrapped and installed in the museum.
03- Rendering showing aerial view of void pool, Snøhetta’s museum building, and two vent structures.
But they won’t see any major exhibits about the architect of the attacks — Osama bin Laden — or his death at the hand of U.S. commandos earlier this month.
“This does not have a huge impact on our planning,” Alice Greenwald, the museum director, said about the killing of bin Laden. “This is not the Osama bin Laden museum, it’s the 9/11 museum.”
The lack of major changes in the exhibit after the bin Laden killing illustrates the museum’s effort to strike a delicate balance: providing a historical narrative without dedicating excessive attention to the perpetrators and their cause or allowing them to be seen as martyrs. That effort has been complicated by the museum’s dual purpose of respectfully honoring the lives of the thousands who died at the site while educating visitors about the lead-up to the attacks and their repercussions.
04- Construction of the interior wall of the south void pool.
05- a rendering of the “ribbon ramp” and its observation platforms (Rendering courtesy Davis Brody Bond Aedas).
06- the ramp under construction.
“There are family members who are sensitive to how the terrorists are portrayed on the site,” Greenwald said. “And there are others who have said as passionately that we cannot wash history. I had one family member who criticized us for not including more information” about the perpetrators, she said.
Ultimately, Greenwald said, planners decided to portray the perpetrators only “in the context of criminals.” The museum will display trial evidence, oral testimony and news footage to try to explain the evolution of al-Qaida. “But we’re not going to be talking about bin Laden’s childhood,” she said.
Set to open in September 2012, the museum is under construction and design plans are being finalized.
It will contain a section dedicated to memorializing the nearly 3,000 victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a separate historical exhibition that includes artifacts, archaeological remnants, images, videos and a timeline of 9/11-related events.
07- Photographs of the victims will line this room in the memorial, where the floor of the original structure will be exposed;
08- Rendering of the space beneath the pool with the stairway and “ribbon ramp” in the background;
09- rendering of the memorial showing an original column in front of an observation platform (Rendering Courtesy Squared Design Lab [+]).
10- View underneath the north void pool whose surfaces will be covered in aluminum foam.
To mark bin Laden’s death, museum officials are considering installing, at the end of the historical exhibition, a hand-painted sign that a Brooklyn woman used to keep a running tally of the number of days between the Sept. 11 attacks and bin Laden’s death. There will likely also be a reference to President Obama’s speech announcing the killing, Greenwald said.
In other parts of the historical exhibition, bin Laden is also displayed on a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” poster and a video of a 1997 CNN interview in which he explains why he has declared jihad on the United States.
Erika Doss, a Notre Dame professor and author of the book “Memorial Mania,” said not including a thorough portrait of the perpetrators and their reasons for attacking the U.S. would deny the opportunity for “a contemplative space, a space of discourse.”
“Would including a narrative about bin Laden and al-Qaida necessarily deter from mourning the victims or detract from the sacred space?” she asked.
“When you don’t include them in the story, you run the risk of creating an invisible evil,” said Anthony Gardner, a family member.
James Young, a professor at University of Massachusetts who is part of a group of advisers to the museum, said that “this is a memorial being built by those who were victimized” and that it should reflect that perspective.
“Those victimized remember the perpetrators as mass murderers,” he said, adding that information related to the terrorists will be included in a historical timeline.
For some family members, the site is sacred ground that should be dedicated to celebrating the lives of the victims.
Glenn Corbett of Waldwick, an adviser to a group of family members, said, “I wish they would put as much time into discussing how to individualize the victims as they are about how to portray bin Laden.”
He said the memorial exhibition — which includes walls covered with thousands of photos of the victims to show the scope of the tragedy —does not go far enough in humanizing those who perished and telling their stories. Visitors will be able to look up additional information about the victims on a digital “interactive table,” and family members’ recorded remembrances of individual victims will play in a nearby room.
“The reason this has become a major issue is because the museum and memorial have been put together as one entity,” Corbett said.
Greenwald said that museum officials have tried to weigh “the diversity of opinion” when making decisions about the program.
Bin Laden and the hijackers who turned planes into missiles will only be included in exhibits if the information is directly related to Sept. 11, she said.
11- Two vent buildings flank the grove of oak trees above the underground museum.
12- the southern pool under construction.
13- the granite-paved plaza with museum entrance in the background.
“Issues raised by the 9/11 attacks that still resonate in current events and public discourse will be presented as questions, respecting both the wide range of visitor experiences and perspectives, and with respect for the site in which this material is displayed,” Greenwald said.
The last section of the historical exhibit, for example, will ask “Who is responsible?”
The hijackers’ photos, displayed in the historical section, are only slightly larger than passport photos and were entered into evidence at a trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, she said. They will be installed below eye level — “so you have to look down to see them,” Greenwald said.
She said the Brooklyn woman’s sign “is the perfect example of documenting history through the real lens of how people experience it.”
She added that the historical exhibit has been designed so that it can adapt to future developments.
“What we wanted to be able to do is be nimble as new material comes up and to be able to integrate that kind of content,” she said. “The 9/11 story is not over with the death of bin Laden.”