- Like almost all museums, the new 9/11 museum in New York City has a gift shop. This has made some people uncomfortable. However, the Washington Post article reports, “It isn’t unusual for museums that commemorate tragedy to have gift shops.” What are some examples of this?
- The WaPo article mentions the Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery, both in Washington D.C., as well as the USS Arizona Memorial at the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
- There are many, many others:
- Museums along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail document the forced relocation of Native American (primarily Cherokee) communities.
- The visitor center at Manzanar National Historic Site, California, teaches visitors about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
- The visitor center at the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, Pennsylvania, explains the manmade disaster that killed one in ten people in the town.
- Those are just in the U.S.—there is also a gift shop at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, among other places.
- Why do you think some people are offended by the gift shop at the 9/11 museum?
- “They’re making money off my dead son,” says the father of a firefighter in the WaPo article and the CNN video above.
- Do you think the 9/11 museum is distinct from places such as the USS Arizona Memorial or a Holocaust museum? Why or why not? (There is no right answer.)
- The tragedy of 9/11 is a much more recent occurrence. (Military personnel are still being buried at Arlington National Cemetery, however.) Many people, especially those directly affected by the disaster, are still grieving and dealing with their anger, stress, and sense of loss. Our article “Teaching through Tragedy” offers different ways to approach grief and mourning in an educational setting.
- There certainly are people who are offended by “crass commercialism” at other sites. The WaPo article, for instance, quotes a former administrator who distanced herself from the Holocaust Memorial Museum when its gift shop expanded to include souvenirs (such as keychains and patches) as well as books and “historically relevant materials.”
- Why do you think there is controversy about selling souvenirs at the 9/11 museum, when hundreds of stores sell similar items all over New York City— and, in fact, the rest of the nation? (There is no right answer.)
- The remains of some victims of 9/11 remain interred at the site, making it “sacred” to many visitors (including President Obama).
- The 9/11 museum is not primarily a place of business, but of remembrance, honor, and education. Balancing those interests in a single geographic location is incredibly difficult.