From the Material to the Digital: Reflections on Collecting and Exhibiting Grief at the 9/11 Memorial Museum

  • Alexandra DrakakisEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


At the National September 11 Memorial Museum, the material culture of everyday life infuses the heart of a story in which ordinary people, on an otherwise unexceptional workday, were thrust into the vortex of a global event. Within the museum, objects serve as proxies for the thousands of individuals that confronted drastic choices. Personal possessions recovered in the wreckage and objects that speak to a victim’s life are especially poignant when their meaning is explained by loved ones.

This chapter explores the complex issues of curatorial practice, collection building, and memorialization of shared traumatic experience. It will also address some of the digital culture related to 9/11, and how the unification of the material and digital and use of technology in the museum space offer unique opportunities for storytelling, and memorialization of victims of mass violence. Although the National September 11 Memorial Museum chronicles an event of continuing global consequence, this chapter seeks to emphasize the importance of gathering evidence of the human impact of any disruptive contemporaneous event that is emotionally sensitive, politically charged, and historically unsettled.


Memorialization Large-scale trauma Material culture Digital heritage Web archives 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National September 11 Memorial MuseumNew York CityUSA

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