Collection Highlight: Reports

1813The popular response the to 9/11 was overwhelming. The events, and what to do in their aftermath, consumed the America’s national conversation for months, if not years, afterwards. But while much of the outpouring was that of individuals grieving or trying to come to terms with what had happened, scholars, researchers and other organizations were attempting to put together more formal assessments of the changes brought about that day. The 9/11 Digital Archives collection of reports offers a partial view of the outpouring of material that sought to provide more formal guidance to a distraught nation.
The collection pulls together largely unrelated reports from numerous non-profits and think tanks.

This collection, unlike others in the archive, is unified by form rather than source or topic, tending more towards white papers and published articles. The organizations represented include official government publication, ethnic lobbying groups, economic and business concerns, and national security think tanks. The reports cover a wide range of topics, rarely overlapping, and offer insight into the effect of 9/11 on the activities of many different segments of American life. Some of these are from professions seeking to address new concerns in the communities they served, like psychiatric associations seeking to give their members the tools to deal with a new influx of trauma patients or those providing literacy and English language services to New York City’s poor and immigrant populations, who disproportionately felt the effects of the dislocations of that September. Others are from groups attempting to establish the extent of the damage that had been done, looking for numbers to gauge the economic damage or the backlash against ethnic groups perceived as sharing responsibility for the attacks.

Collection Highlight: The Mark Ragsdale Flyer Collection

539object The year following the attack on the World Trade Center was tumultuous for the city of New York. Placed at the epicenter of events that many Americans felt continued to defy understanding, residents also struggled to make sense of what had happened. The Michael Ragsdale Flyer Collection provides a glimpse into some public discussions that played out on street corners and telephone poles.

Flyers gathered daily by Mr. Ragsdale offer us insight into the myriad of issues that concerned New Yorkers. On these pages we see reactions from many different institutions, advocacy efforts from anti-war groups, and efforts to help people cope with the potential mental health consequences of the attacks.  Many sought to address public confusion and ignorance about the events and causes and attempted to diffuse growing tensions between different groups throughout the city and the country.

Through the fliers, we can see that much of the debate focuses on the merits and justice of using force in retaliation for the September 11th attacks. Heavily represented in the collection are anti-war fliers, together with items from religious organizations and advocates for public servants (fire, EMS, law enforcement, and even postal workers).

Those interested in visual culture and propaganda will find the collection of advocacy posters a useful resource. The artistic construction of these fliers offers insight into design in the early 2000s. While some are hand-drawn, many reflect the increased availability of home computers, image manipulation software, and online images This includes fliers that repurpose older art, make use of clip art, or remix older art with digital photography. While a few demonstrate professional design skills, most are clearly the product of passionate amateurs using the traditional form of a broadside to engage New Yorkers in conversations about their post-9/11 lives.

Collection Highlight: Records of the Madison Area Peace Coalition

Guest post by Benjamin Schneider, Graduate Research Assistant, RRCHNM

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, there was tremendous uncertainty about how America would respond to what had happened. As discussion shifted to the likelihood, and then inevitability, of a military response, anti-war groups organized to try to stop it, including the Madison Area Peace Coalition. justicenotwarThe bulk of this collection reveals the group’s advocacy work, from organizing teach-ins, rallies, and collaborations with other affiliated groups. Other materials include opinion pieces and news articles as well as more general responses to the changing political situation.

While the collection offers substantial material to any researcher interested in American attitudes towards war and use of force, it also offers a number of less orthodox avenues for inquiry. Those interested in historical memory and the legacy of the Vietnam War will find lengthy discussions within MAPC of how opposition movements to US involvement in Vietnam shaped their efforts and understanding of the post-9/11 world. For those interested in politics, the collection offers good source material tracing MAPC’s affiliations and efforts to build coalitions and highlight the then growing though tentative connections between the anti-war left and the libertarian movement.

Discussion of race and religion in America also feature prominently throughout the collection, particularly as it pertains to Americans of Middle Eastern heritage and practicing Muslims. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the members of MAPC were deeply concerned that these communities would be targeted, and actively sought to organize for their defense.

The MAPC collection is one of many we will highlight that will give researchers a more nuanced look at the responses to the September 11 attacks.

The Collections Within

How did we collect these 150,000 digital stories, emails, documents, images, audio and video recordings, and digital animations that comprise the September 11 Digital Archive?

Many items were contributed directly through the Archive’s contribution form from individuals interested in sharing their experiences. We also collaborated with scores of organizations to save and publish materials they collected.

Soon after the Archive launched, the team collaborated with major cultural institutions, including the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, American Association of Museums, Museum of the City of New York, Brooklyn Historical Society, The New-York Historical Society, Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center at CUNY, and Museum of Chinese in America.

We also contacted nationally-important institutions including the American Red Cross, Service Employees International Union, Fire Department of New York, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Department of Justice, and National Guard and accessioned collections from their archive. All collections are available for browsing.

While collecting materials from large organizations was very important, we also reached out to smaller ones, including the SEPT11INFO discussion group, TomPaine.com, the Independent Press Association, the Madison Area Peace Coalition, Global Kids, New York City P.S. 721, and Asociación Tepeyac de New York.

Additionally, the Archive is responsible for three important collections of digital materials. The first and largest of these is Here Is New York (HNY). In response to the World Trade Center tragedy, and to the unprecedented flood of images that resulted from it, a unique exhibition of photographs was displayed in a storefront in Manhattan’s SoHo.

Subtitled “A Democracy of Photographs,” the collection contains nearly 7,000 high-quality images. Anyone who had taken pictures relating to the attacks was invited to submit images to the gallery, where they were digitally scanned, printed and displayed on the walls alongside the work of top photojournalists and other professional photographers. Following its run in SoHo, the exhibition traveled to twenty locations around the world.

Smaller in scale, but no less unique, the Sonic Memorial Project is a collection of digital audio related to the history and collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Shortly after September 11th, National Public Radio’s Lost and Found Sound series brought together radio producers, artists, historians, archivists, and the public broadcasting community to collect and preserve audio traces of the World Trade Center, its neighborhood, and the events of September 11th. The Sonic Memorial Project launched a toll-free telephone line and asked the general public to record stories and make audio contributions. The result is a collection of nearly 800 first-hand audio recollections and historical audio recordings, among them recordings of weddings atop the World Trade Center, sounds of the Hudson River waterfront, recordings of law offices and cleaning crews at work in the buildings, an interview with the pianist at Windows on the World, and voicemail messages from people who worked in the World Trade Center, including several recorded during the attacks.

Finally, Ground One: Voices from Post-911 Chinatown provides an in-depth portrait of the ways in which the identity of a community, largely neglected by national media following September 11th, has been indelibly shaped by that day. Made possibly through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Archive team partnered with the Museum of Chinese in America, the Columbia University Oral History Research Office, and New York University’s Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute to conduct 30 interviews with Chinese and Chinese-American citizens of New York’s Chinatown, a community in the shadow of the WTC towers.

We will be merging all of these special collections, some currently saved in different databases, into one unified archive. For now, browse the collections individually to discover some remarkable sights and sounds captured in 2001.