The next controversy: The 9/11 museum

Visitors standing in a 120,000-square-foot cavern below where the north tower once stood will be confronted with not just the names but the faces of the 2,982 fallen. Artifacts will tell the story, from a huge FDNY fire truck, one-half of it pristine, one-half charred and crushed by the bridge collapse, to a pair of bloody high heels donated by a survivor who lacerated her feet as she fled the imploding towers. The museum will show the hijackers-and they will show pictures of people leaping from the towers, not to horrify visitors but to make sure the story is as complete as possible. Visitors will have to descend the actual granite “Survivor’s Staircase” to end the tour…

David Simpson, author of 9/11: The Culture of Commemoration, said there’s a potential “the museum will not educate, it will simply shock,” and generate so much emotion it will be a shrine, not museum. “Without in any sense diminishing the horror of 9/11, it isn’t the single event of this history. It just isn’t…. The more you focus on the immediacy of that day, those 102 minutes or whatever that was, the more risk there is of losing sight of everything else.” Alice Greenwald, director of the museum, described its planned content in an article for Curator Journal in January as “both graphic in its violence and provocative in its implications.” Too harsh? Too bathetic? Too sentimental? Will it celebritize the dead? Let the debate begin.