Technology expands reach of 9/11 museum in NYC

The landmark heralds the 'stories of the everyday men and women who became rescue and recovery workers in a time our city needed them most,' advocate John Feal says

Anyone with a story to tell can create an account and add their voice to the project. Credit: Richard Gould

About 13 years after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum has opened to the public in New York City.

There is significant emotional resonance at the site and what stood there, such as the relics of the World Trade Center towers and the unbroken concrete slurry wall that protected their foundations from the Hudson River. To ensure that the stories and artifacts of that day are preserved and shared, the museum is leveraging technology.

Spreading memories online

The museum had a wide online following long before it opened its doors to the public on May 21, with more than 200,000 followers on Facebook and 41,000 on Twitter.

Earlier this year, the museum launched an interactive timeline of the 2001 attacks and subsequent recovery efforts. The Make History website, a user-generated collection of stories, images and videos, was launched in 2009. The museum released an app in 2010, Explore 9/11, which serves as a guide to the site. It’s been downloaded nearly 300,000 times. Also in 2010, Lady Liberty went live, allowing users to explore the replica of the Statue of Liberty that was set up outside a New York City firehouse and adorned with tributes in the weeks following the attacks.

The museum collaborated with several companies to create interactive digital elements. They partnered with Google to generate a 3-D rendering of the memorial, allowing online visitors to take a virtual tour. It opens with a close-up of the names engraved in bronze around the reflecting pools.

Curators also joined with Earthcam to provide a live video feed of the World Trade Center site from above.

9/11 memorial registries

The museum has also launched an online platform for those with direct ties to the event to share their stories.

The 9/11 Memorial Registries is divided into three parts: the Rescue and Recovery Workers Registry, where users can find profiles of rescue workers; the Witnesses and Survivors Registry, a collection of stories arranged by location around Manhattan and the Pentagon; and the Memorials Registry, an interactive map that identifies 9/11 memorials around the world. The registries are available on touchscreens around Foundation Hall in the Memorial Museum and online.

“The unparalleled stories of the everyday men and women who became rescue and recovery workers in a time our city needed them most should be forever preserved for all to experience,” said John Feal, the founder and president of the FealGood Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for first responders and rescue and recovery workers. “That is especially true for all of those heroes who died responding to the attacks and those sickened who we continue to lose today. All of their stories need to be heard.

Anyone with a story to tell can create an account and add their voice to the project, whether their experience relates to the 2001 attacks, or the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

“The 9/11 Memorial Registries remind us of people coming together — surviving, recovering and remembering,” museum Director Alice M. Greenwald said in a press release.

“By contributing to this archive, in the museum or from home, our visitors join us in creating a historical record and virtual community that respects personal stories of bravery and perseverance as we continue to remember the lives lost.”

Tasha Friedman
Tasha Friedman is a science and technology writer in New York City. She also reports on film, pop culture and social media.
Tasha Friedman
Tasha Friedman
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