From personal memory to shared history

How do you tell the story of one of the most significant events of the 21st century? Instead of one story, Jake Barton uses 10 000 to create the 9/11 Memorial.

Bringing forth over 10 000 individuals’ stories and memories, Local Projects’ 9/11 Memorial Museum engages visitors through multiple collaborative storytelling exhibits. 

New York-based design studio Local Projects, founded by Jake Barton, focuses on engaging audiences through a seamless integration of emotion and technology. Their latest project, the multiple media designs for the 9/11 Memorial Museum, seeks to commemorate the tragedy and educate visitors without recreating the trauma of the event. 

Barton has been involved with the development of the museum from its conception to its opening. He has defined the overarching concept of the museum experience using his signature collaborative storytelling to great effect in design.

Some of the museum elements and designs include:

We Remember, an audio collage of 100 remembrances from people around the world spoken in their native language. “The soundscape of collected voices demonstrates the global diversity of the impact on the day,” says Barton. The museum provides visitors with the opportunity to record their own 9/11 experiences and become part of the museum.

Memorial Exhibition, an exhibition honouring the victims of 9/11 and the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Centre. The exhibition’s exterior walls reveal the faces of the victims, which can be explored by six interactive tables filled with photographs, stories and an oral history remembrance of most of the victims, which is played in the centre of the exhibition.

Audio Alcoves, a collection of materials including oral histories, radio transmissions, 911 calls, answering machine messages and first respondent broadcasts that tell the story from inside the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the pentagon.

Artifactual Media, a variety of different events portrayed through archival media, including the burning towers, witness photographs, missing person posters, first responder radio transmissions, worldwide vigils, the first day after 9/11 and dozens of other events, which took place in the first year after the tragedy.

Timescape, a dynamic video display that aggregates news articles from more that 200 different media outlets, starting on 11 September 2001 until today in a beautiful and constantly evolving infographic. Timescape uses an algorithm to find articles connected with 9/11 and keywords associated with the event to create timelines on various news pieces. The installation does what no curator could have imagined, and as news occurs, the algorithm enables the relevance of 9/11 to continue. 

Reflecting on 9/11, a presentation of interviews looking at post 9/11 life. Questions such as: “How does a democracy balance personal freedom and national security?” and “What have you learnt from 9/11?” are answered by noted individuals including Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Clinton, Colin Powel and 9/11 survivors.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum was opened to the general public on 21 May 2014.

Watch the Talk with Jake Barton