Opened in May 2014, the National September 11 Memorial Museum is the global focal point for preserving the history of the 9/11 attacks and exploring their continuing significance. The 110,000 square-foot museum tells the story of the events of 9/11 through artifacts, images, first-person accounts, and multimedia displays.
A historical exhibition, September 11, 2001, tells the story of what happened on 9/11, including the events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and on Flight 93. This exhibition explores the background leading up to the attacks and examines their aftermath and continuing implications. A memorial exhibition, In Memoriam, honors the victims of the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Portraits of the nearly 3,000 victims convey the scope and scale of loss. In a quiet chamber, profiles of individual victims invite visitors to bear witness, and serve as a reminder that we are all diminished when any one of us suffers the loss of a loved one through a senseless act of terrorism. “Interstitial areas” surrounding the main historical and memorial exhibitions function as a complete, thought-provoking experience. Here, visitors encounter artifacts scarred by the attacks and the archaeological remnants of the buildings. Also presented are works of tribute art and installations that invite visitors to leave messages of remembrance and hope.
Many of society’s disagreements over how to respond to 9/11 played out as public controversy in anticipation of this museum. Once open and people saw its finished form, the museum was widely embraced. Since opening, visitor surveys conducted by both staff and outside evaluators have focused on overall visitor experience and key messages visitors are taking away from the exhibitions. These surveys revealed that even those who find the material particularly difficult frequently report the experience was positive and healing. One testament to the museum’s power is the amount of time visitors are committing; the average visit is over two hours, with many visitors electing to stay for three to three-and-a-half hours.
The National September 11 Memorial Museum’s mission is to bear solemn witness to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993. The museum honors the victims of these attacks and all who risked their lives to save others. It further recognizes the thousands who survived and all who demonstrated extraordinary compassion in the aftermath. Demonstrating the consequences of terrorism on individual lives and its impact on communities at the local, national, and international levels, the museum attests to the triumph of human dignity over human depravity and affirms an unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life.