Talks begin on W.T.C. memorial’s museum

By Ellen Keohane

About 50 people, including 9/11 family members, museum curators, a filmmaker and a professor, settled into seats at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies in Lower Manhattan on Monday night to learn more about the future plans for the World Trade Center’s Memorial Museum. The public workshop was the first of two scheduled within the next month.

The Memorial Museum, which will be part of the memorial complex at the World Trade Center site, will include more than 100,000 square feet of space, said Anne Papageorge of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, who organized the workshop with the Civil Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York and the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation. To put the size of the museum in perspective, Papageorge said that the exhibition space would be larger than the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

The Memorial Museum will be dedicated to honoring and remembering those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 and during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, said Jeff Howard of Howard and Revis Design Services, who presented the proposed content and programming for the museum.

Flipping through PowerPoint slides outlining the museum’s proposed programming and design, Howard said that Memorial Museum will be underground, occupying the space that was once between the two towers. After entering, visitors will follow a sloped path, which will wind through the museum—like a ribbon—all the way down to its lowest level, at bedrock.

Proposed exhibits include a Sept. 11 timeline, including first-hand testimony from survivors. Space will also be dedicated to highlighting the history of the towers as well as rescue, recovery, renewal and rebuilding efforts, Howard said. Tokens of grief and remembrance, such as quilts, will also be displayed.

In addition, the museum will have a contemplation area, where people can rest and reflect. The space will house unidentified human remains from the tragedy. There will also be a library, where each victim’s family will have a space to store personal affects in an album-sized module, Howard said.

Oversized wreckage from the towers and crushed vehicles, currently stored in hangar 17 at J.F.K. Airport, will be on display, Howard said. Inside the museum, visitors will be able to view other historic remains from the site, such the beams of the original towers’ columns and a slurry wall. Small, personal artifacts tied to individual’s stories will also be exhibited, he said.

As many of the museum’s more emotional and graphic exhibits will not be appropriate for everyone, particularly young children, visitors will have the option of skipping certain exhibits by taking a bypass elevator, Howard said.

Following Howard’s presentation, workshop participants separated into eight groups. Each group had a volunteer facilitator who asked workshop participants a list of prepared questions, then jotted down their responses in marker on an oversized notepad resting on an easel.

After saying the workshop would be open to the press, L.M.D.C. officials barred reporters from observing the groups’ discussions. Spokespersons said they didn’t want 9/11 family members to feel uncomfortable, although the L.M.D.C. in the past has allowed the press to observe small discussions with family members at workshops with a similar format.

Workshop participants included Stanley Moses, an urban affairs professor at Hunter College, and Ann Meyerson, a freelance museum curator. Both of their groups were small, consisting of three-to-four people. Moses’ group included a mother of a child who died on Sept. 11 and another who worked in a museum, he said. Meyerson’s included a filmmaker, museum curator and web designer. No one in her group was immediately affected by 9/11, she said.

An hour after separating into groups, workshop participants reported back to share their thoughts with others.

Some felt that after only four years, they needed more time to digest the meaning of the 9/11. Not enough time had passed to adequately reflect on the events of the day. For that reason, the museum exhibits and programming should not be “set in stone,” and should be flexible and open to evolving, said one group.

Another group stressed the importance of not shying away from explicit images or accounts of 9/11, while others expressed their concern about the commercial implications of the site. One person wondered if the site would include a coffee or souvenir shop.

Diane Horning, who lost her son on 9/11, felt that plans for the proposed museum were too preliminary and not specific enough to be discussed in depth. “It’s hard to comment on something very general,” she said.

Some expressed concern that the museum itself would not be large enough for all of the proposed exhibits and could not accommodate the number of people who would be utilizing the space. “It’s not just a museum, but a memorial,” said one participant. “People will want to come and stay.”

The next workshop will take place on October 11 from 6 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies, 15 Barclay Street in Lower Manhattan. To register, go to www.civic-alliance.org or call 212-253-2727 x317.

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