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Visiting the 9/11 Museum? Here's What You Should Know

October 25, 2023 By CityPASS

September 11, 2001, was a traumatic day for the United States: terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, two of the tallest buildings and part of the World Trade Center complex, caused around 3,000 innocent people to lose their lives. The incident was horrifying then, and though over two decades have passed, it continues to weigh heavily on all of us.

As a fitting tribute, a memorial and a museum were built on the original site of the towers. Dedicated to honoring the memory of those who lost their lives on that fateful day, the sites educate people through artifacts, first-person accounts, and special exhibits. Needless to say, it is a unique, but very emotional experience.

Learn all about the history behind the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the difference between the Memorial and the Museum, and the experiences that await you at both.

The History Behind the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Around two years after the attack, in 2003, the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition was launched by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in an attempt to revitalize Ground Zero in New York.

The Memorial we see today is the winning design, Reflecting Absence, which was the brainchild of Architect Michael Arad and Landscape Architect Peter Walker. Part of the current World Trade Center, the Memorial features the biggest manufactured waterfall in North America and was opened to the public on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

The National 9/11 Memorial Museum, however, was designed by architects from the firm Davis Brody Bond. Dedicated to shedding light on the events of that tragic day in American history, it opened its doors three years later, in 2014.

While the Memorial is located at ground level and acts as a space of reflection, the Museum is located beneath it and is more educational in nature.

What You Can Find Inside the 9/11 Museum at Ground Zero

The 9/11 Museum in New York City is home to many important artifacts that capture the horror of the traumatic day. These include the items that survived the 9/11 attacks at different places, commemorative tokens given to the families of the deceased, some large artifacts, and genuine archaeological remains from the site.

Among the numerous significant exhibits is the 9/11 Museum's Jumpers exhibit. Formally called The Falling Man, it is an instrumental tribute to those who fell or jumped from the towers. The music is accompanied by clips from the news and pictures.

The exhibits, and the 9/11 Museum itself, serve as eternal flames that signal the never-ending remembrance of the lives lost.

Foundation Hall and the Twin Towers' Remains

The Foundation Hall, located directly beside the erstwhile site of the North Tower, is the largest portion of the museum. It is also where you'll find the famed slurry wall.

The slurry wall is a concrete retaining wall constructed in the 1960s to keep the waters of the Hudson River away from the high-rise when it was erected. Today, it stands as a symbol of resilience, having survived the devastating attacks.

Another significant remnant from the Twin Towers is the Last Column — a 36-foot-high steel beam that was the last to be removed after the nine-month recovery mission. Serving as a token of remembrance, it displays memorial tributes and notations made by recovery workers.

Memorial Hall and Historical Records of the Tragic Event

The Memorial Hall, located between the footprints of the North and South towers, features two gut-wrenching, site-specific artworks. The first is the work of artist and blacksmith Tom Joyce, who used recovered steel from the site to model the Virgil quote, "No day shall erase you from the memory of time."

Surrounding the quote is a work of artist Spencer Finch titled Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning. It features 2983 blue watercolor paper panels, dedicated to the lives lost during the bombing in 1993 and the attacks in 2001.

The primary exhibition spaces lie right in the footprints of the buildings themselves and can be quite overwhelming. Here is where you'll find most of the artifacts and rotating exhibits. Two core exhibitions that serve as historical records of the incident are the historical (September 11, 2001) and memorial exhibitions (In Memoriam). While the former talks through images, artifacts, and recordings about three things — things as they happened that day, historical events and context, and the aftermath of the attacks — the latter serves to honor the memories of those who lost their lives that day.

Obviously, it can be a lot to take in. If you are unsure about exploring the place by yourself, the 9/11 Museum tours are worth considering. They will keep you from being weighed down, while still being informative and adding value to your visit. Choosing the age-appropriate variant can also make it easier for any accompanying children.

However, if you don't want to join a guided tour, you can always make use of the available interactive technology to enhance your experience at the place.

Tour Lengths

The guided tours range from 45 minutes for the Youth & Family Tour to 90 minutes for the Memorial + Museum Tour. The Museum tours take an hour each. You can also pay for and download the 9/11 Memorial Audio Guide which has a few self-guided tours.

However, if you are not opting for a tour, the time needed to explore the 9/11 Museum might be between an hour to four, depending on what you want to see.

Related Places To Explore and Things To Do

If you have a personal connection with that fateful day, you might also want to visit other places that display remnants from the 9/11 incident.

The Battery, previously called Battery Park, near the World Trade Center now hosts The Sphere. The 20-ton bronze sculpture was an art installation that stood between the Twin Towers from 1971 to 2001. Designed to represent peace, it was one of the only artworks to survive the attack to a good extent.

Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum With CityPASS® Tickets

If you decide to visit the 9/11 Museum & Memorial, you can save money with CityPASS® tickets. Get your hands on New York CityPASS® tickets and visit this museum along with other popular New York attractions.

New York City Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in New York City, we recommend finding lodging near New York City's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

Header Image Photo by Jin S. Lee / 9/11 Memorial

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