Memories and Meaning: Objects Speak

Contributors who donated objects to the new Tribute exhibit showcasing 9/11 related momentos.

In February 2011, the Tribute Center opened a new exhibit, Memories and Meaning Objects

Speak, which reflects the impact that the attacks of September 11th have had on a variety of people over the last ten years.

The curatorial staff at the Tribute Center interviewed hundreds of people who had saved very personal mementoes from September 11, 2001. Over 20 precious objects that represent unique September 11th memories are included in the exhibition. The objects are accompanied by each person’s story, showing how individuals acquired the objects, why they kept them and how the meaning changed over the course of time.

One object is a victim’s phone card. The card was the only thing returned to his family during the recovery operation. Initially, the family who donated the card associated only sadness and disappointment with it, but over time, they came to see it in a different light. When returning from a business trip, this father and husband would often make his final business calls from the driveway, in order to be fully present with his family when he walked through the door. The family now views the phone card as a representation of the great love he possessed for his family.

In another case, two hats, both quite different, are on display. One is a hardhat worn during the recovery period and during the rebuilding; the other is a funny flowered hat worn as a way to lift the spirits of recovery workers. Both were utilitarian hats when originally saved, but now are epic to their owners by the amount of history experienced by each.

Some of the objects, such as an airplane model from the Pentagon or a set of foreign language dictionaries from the World Financial Center, were removed from desks in offices that were badly damaged on September 11th. The objects originally had meaning as a symbol of office life before the attacks, and now they reflect a world with very different values.

Memories and Meaning: Objects Speak is currently on display at the Tribute Center through fall 2011.

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