The objects that lived: The 9/11 Museum and material transformation

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Abstract

This essay analyzes the September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero in New York through the framework of memory and materiality. The 9/11 memorial and museum are both sites through which the material transformation of 9/11 is mediated—through preservation, re-creation, and fetishization and through narratives of absence, presence, and remains. I examine the meanings of material transformation in the dust that emerged in the wake of the twin towers’ fall, the design focus on absence, the material objects on display in the museum as survivor objects, and the merchandise for sale in the museum gift shop. The museum is a project of many contradictions in its varied roles as a historical museum, a tribute to those who died, a tourist destination, a patriotic nationalist project, and the repository of unidentified remains. This essay aims to reveal how 9/11 is defined through narratives of exceptionalism and material transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages14
JournalMemory Studies
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

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Keywords

  • September 11
  • absence
  • material object
  • memory museum
  • nationalism
  • souvenir

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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