9/11 Museum: five controversies ahead of public opening

Families of victims outraged by 'crass and insensitive' souvenirs sold in museum gift shop

Image of original WTC Towers displayed in window of the 9/11 Memorial Museum
(Image credit: 2014 Getty Images)

The new September 11 Memorial Museum in New York is facing criticism for its tasteless souvenirs, just two days before it opens to the public. Hoodies emblazoned with pictures of the Twin Towers and fire department dog vests have been branded "crass and insensitive" by families of those who died in the 2001 attacks. But this is not the first controversy to hit the $700m museum, which is located in the foundations of the collapsed skyscrapers, around 70ft beneath Ground Zero. Some have applauded the project as a fitting way to honour the victims, but others have been left unimpressed...

Disaster souvenirsAmong the souvenirs sold at the 9/11 museum gift shop are silk scarves decorated with the Twin Towers, earrings moulded from leaves of surviving trees and fire department dog vests. Mugs, mouse pads, magnets and stuffed animals are also on sale. Diane Horning, whose 26-year-old son Matthew died in the attack, said it was the "crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died". The museum has said all net proceeds are dedicated to developing and sustaining the museum, but Horning told the New York Post: "I think it's a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they're willing to do it over my son's dead body."

Unidentified remains of victims A small number of families have said they are "outraged" that the unidentified remains of victims found in the rubble of the Twin Towers are being stored inside the museum building. "The human remains of my son and all of the 3,000 victims should be in a beautiful and respectful memorial, not in the basement of a museum," said Sally Regenhard, the mother of a firefighter who died at the World Trade Center. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and the chairman of the 9/11 memorial and museum, told The Guardian there are "roughly 3,000 families who think this is a good idea, and about a dozen who don't".

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Al-Qaeda video A group of faith leaders have raised concerns about how the museum is portraying the cause of the terrorist attacks. In particular, they have objected to a seven-minute film, entitled The Rise of Al Qaeda, which they fear blurs the line between violent extremism and the non-violent tenets of the Muslim faith. Zead Ramadan of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told CNN there was "unfortunate messaging in referencing to Islam" in the film. But the museum has insisted it "does not purport to be a film about Islam or in any way generalise that Muslims are terrorists".

Museum entry feeThe mandatory $24 entry fee to adults visiting the museum has also come under fire. Discounts are available and families, rescue workers and New York school groups can enter for free, but some relatives said it undermined the idea that all the world can visit and learn from the tragedy, reports the LA Times. Bloomberg has said the fee is needed to maintain the site and urged people to contact their representatives in Congress to complain about lack of federal funding to meet the museum's $60m annual operating costs.

'No day shall erase you' The unidentified remains will be kept behind a wall on which an inscription has been studded in steel from the towers. It says "No day shall erase you from the memory of time", a translation of a phrase from Virgil's Latin poem The Aeneid, written between 29 and 19BC. But critics say the direct literary context of the quote is "shockingly inappropriate". It refers to two Trojan warriors, Nisus and Euryalus, who have just slaughtered their enemy in their sleep and end up having their severed heads paraded on spears. To apply the sentiment to civilians killed indiscriminately in an act of terrorism is "grotesque", says the New York Times.

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