The September 11 Museum was dedicated on May 15, 2014 and opened to the public on May 21. Its exhibits include 23,000 images, 10,300 artifacts, nearly 2,000 oral histories of those killed – mostly provided by friends and families – and over 500 hours of video.
The underground museum has artifacts from September 11, 2001, including steel from the Twin Towers (such as the final steel, the last piece of steel to leave Ground Zero in May 2002). It is built at the former location of Fritz Koenig’s The Sphere, a large metallic sculpture placed in the middle of a large pool between the Twin Towers. Battered but intact after the attacks, The Sphere was moved to be displayed at Battery Park.
In December 2011, museum construction halted temporarily due, according to the Associated Press, to disputes between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation over responsibility for infrastructure costs. On March 13, 2012, talks on the issue began and construction resumed. After a number of false opening reports, it was announced that the museum would open to the public on May 21, 2014.
The museum was dedicated on May 15, 2014. In attendance were a range of dignitaries, from President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to former mayors David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and current mayor Bill de Blasio. During the hour-long ceremony LaChanze sang “Amazing Grace”, which she dedicated to her husband (who was killed in the World Trade Center that day). During the five days between its dedication and the public opening, over 42,000 first responders and family members of 9/11 victims visited the museum.
An opening ceremony for the museum was held on May 21, during which twenty-four police officers and firefighters unfurled the restored 30-foot (9.1 m) national 9/11 flag before it was brought into the museum for permanent display. The gates surrounding the museum were then taken down, marking their first removal since the attacks. Opening-day tickets quickly sold out. Despite the museum’s design (to evoke memories without additional distress), counselors were available during its opening due to the large number of visitors.
Designed by Davis Brody Bond, the museum is about 70 feet (21 m) below ground and accessible through a pavilion designed by Snøhetta. The National September 11 Memorial Museum encloses 110,000 square feet (10,000 m2) of publicly accessible space. The pavilion has a deconstructivist design, resembling a partially collapsed building (mirroring the attacks), and houses two tridents from the Twin Towers. One of the museum’s walls is an exposed side of the slurry wall retaining the Hudson River, which remained intact during (and after) September 11. Other Ground Zero artifacts include wrecked emergency vehicles (including a fire engine deformed from the collapse), pieces of metal from all seven World Trade Center buildings, recordings of survivors and first responders (including 911 phone calls), pictures of all victims, photographs from the wreckage and other media detailing the destruction (including the crashes, collapse, fires, those who jumped and the cleanup). The museum is designed to evoke memories without additional distress, particularly to first responders and the families of victims.
The Huffington Post wrote that “walking through the museum is like being transported back to the turmoil, destruction and anguish of 9/11. Exhibits express the disbelief and heartache of New York and the nation.”