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.

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