Voices of 9/11 will be heard in memorial’s museum

Interactive exhibits allowing visitors to hear 9/11 stories and tell their own will form the heart of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum when it opens as soon as 2012.

“The story that was collectively witnessed will be collectively told,” said Alice Greenwald, director of the museum. “Each of us can literally become a part of the museum.”

The museum received a $2.29 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. last week to develop its multimedia exhibits. The museum has already raised over $350 million for construction and needs an additional $18 million to complete the core displays, said Joe Daniels, the museum’s president.

At last Thursday’s L.M.D.C. meeting, Greenwald gave new details about the museum’s exhibits. Upon entering, visitors will see a floor-to-ceiling map of the world on glowing glass panels. Overlapping voices in a variety of languages will describe people’s initial experience of 9/11, an event that one-third of the world’s population witnessed simultaneously, Greenwald said.

Visitors will then wind through exhibits about the day itself, and its origins and aftermath. The museum will focus on individual stories, including interviews with a podiatrist who treated recovery workers at the site and a Tribeca teenager whose family stayed in their apartment after the attacks.

Physical artifacts, including the memento-covered “last column,” will add reality to the recollections. In one display, video footage of the recovery effort will be projected onto large chunks of steel salvaged from the site.

The museum’s final exhibit will encourage visitors to record their own memories of where they were on 9/11 and what they did in the days that followed. Some of those recollections will continually be incorporated into the museum’s opening exhibit.

The museum is scheduled to open beneath the World Trade Center site in 2012. The foundation hopes to open the at-grade memorial one year earlier, on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, with a tree-shaded plaza and waterfalls in the tower footprints.

— Julie Shapiro