Twenty-two years ago, airplanes were turned into terrible weapons. As New York struggled to rebuild and recover, it was decided that a Museum and Memorial would be built to honor the fallen and protect the history. Today a group of more than 100 scholars, historians, interfaith leaders, and family members have aligned to form The 9/11 Museum Advisory Council[https://911museumcac.org] Their reasons are varied, but their voices are powerful and painful.
Elizabeth Miller, whose father, firefighter Douglas C. Miller, died on 9/11 says “As a family member, walking through the museum is a very traumatic experience.”
“As a Muslim, I felt very unsafe being in the museum,” said Dr. Debbie Almontaser, a faith leader and lifelong New Yorker.
Pablo Helguera, an artist who was director of programs at the Museum of Modern Art until 2020, wrote: “In contrast to most of my friends,I believe we must have a 9/11 museum….however the museum’s philosophical premises, mission, objectives, and strategies need to be radically rethought and clarified so that it does not merely remain as a triggering site for locals and a profitable selfie magnet for tourists.”
And finally, Dr. Daisy Khan, of Wise Muslim Women, said: “Al Qaeda is an aberration; it is not rooted in Islam. We are very quick to make a distinction between white supremacy and white people, but that is not done at the museum. We are pleading with you to create more space for the bigger conversation.”
Family members, faith leaders, museum programmers, and scholars last week published this open letter. The words speak for themselves.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF
THE 9/11 MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM
Ms. Elizabeth L. Hillman
President & CEO
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Dear Ms. Hillman,
Today, I am writing to inform you of a coalition of community voices, with more than 100 members from universities, scholars, interfaith groups, and 9/11 family members.
As of today, we will be known as The 9/11 Museum Community Advisory Council. After a series of meetings, Zoom calls, gatherings, and emails, we have formed a steering committee and have a formal request for the Museum.
We request that the Museum agrees to a quarterly cadence of meetings with our group, to continue to explore the issues raised on July 24th, and create a formal process for our inclusion as stakeholders in the Museum’s important mission and future.
Our Mission: We, The 9/11 Museum Community Advisory Council, are a group of community members, scholars, and family members representing more than 100 members who share a deep concern about how the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, are remembered, represented, taught, and understood. Each of us, in our own way, feels a deep and abiding interest in the events of 9/11 and the need to provide the public with a historically accurate and inclusive understanding of the events of that day, the history that led up to it, and the history afterward, up to our present moment.
We share a sense that The 9/11 Museum, as the central institution representing the history of 9/11, plays a particularly important role in the national and cultural landscape. While we appreciate that the 9/11 Museum has an extraordinary mandate in representing 9/11 to a wide range of stakeholders and audiences, we respectfully propose that this is the right time to deepen and broaden the Museum’s purview, its inclusivity and diversity, and to increase the Museum’s transparency and its responsiveness to community feedback.
Our Request: We respectfully request that our steering committee be invited to a quarterly one-hour meeting, conducted over Zoom, to learn about museum programs and to participate in feedback and updates as the museum considers the needs of the communities it serves.
The 9/11 Museum Community Advisory Council is a volunteer organization, and as such we will adopt a set of organizational principles that will be published and open to change and evolution as our community grows, based on feedback and democratic principles.
We do want to be clear that we are based, at our fundamental core, in transparency, inclusion, and historic preservation. We share with the founders and stakeholders of the 9/11 Museum a conviction that this institution plays a vital source in remembrance and education. We hope you share our mission to continue to keep the 9/11 story in the hearts and minds of our city and our communities. We invite you to embrace these diverse communities, as we work together to heal the longstanding pain that was caused on that terrible day more than twenty years ago, and embrace critical scholarship and historic exploration.
Steering Committee — Founding Members:
- Dr. Debbie Almontaser, Bridging Cultures Group Inc.
- Laura Frost / Scholar and Writer / Stanford University
- Peter Gudaitis -New York Disaster Interfaith Services
Elizabeth Miller / Family Member / Fmr Museum Employee
- Professor Nicholas Mirzoeff, Department of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University.
- Steven Rosenbaum: Filmmaker and Archivist — The CameraPlanet Archive *
- Pamela Yoder: Filmmaker and Archivist — The CameraPlanet Archive*
We’ll be announcing the group’s formation this week, and would like to be able to share that our request for regularly scheduled meetings has been endorsed and agreed upon by The Museum.
Please let us know if you are willing to include The 9/11 Museum Community Advisory Council in the stakeholders who have a seat at the table.
We propose our first meeting be this Friday, Sept. 8 at 2 p.m. (this was requested almost 3 weeks ago). If this doesn’t work, please propose an alternate date we can confirm ASAP.
Thank you for your consideration. We appreciate your timely response.
The Steering Committee
The 9/11 Museum Community Advisory Council
CONTACT US: firstname.lastname@example.org
CC: Cliff Chanin, Museum Director
*Author note: As the founders of the CameraPlanet Archive, and the largest donors of archival video to the Museum, Pam and I signed the letter in support of the group’s mission.