Penn Museum marks 9/11 anniversary with exhibition, special programming

World Trade Center

Sept. 11, 2001 is a day that has been seared into the collective public memory.

Nineteen Al-Qaeda suicide terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes, crashing two into 1 and 2 World Trade Center, which both later collapsed, one into the Pentagon and one into a field near Shanksville, Pa. The images of the the Twin Towers crumbling and soot-covered New Yorkers fleeing smoke-filled streets have become tragic milestones of modern American history.

The Penn Museum will mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with special programming and a new gallery exhibition, “Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments from 9/11.”  

Organized in conjunction with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center in New York, “Excavating Ground Zero” will be on view from Aug. 20 through Nov. 6.

The exhibition documents the horror of 9/11 through a small collection of everyday objects, including a broken pair of eyeglasses, a computer keyboard, visitor badges and glass from the towers recovered by archaeologists and physical anthropologists who excavated the Ground Zero site. Text and a timeline of the day’s tragic events accompany the recovered objects on display.

“This gallery experience tells a powerful archeological story of the history of what happened that day,” says Penn Museum Director Richard Hodges.

The exhibition will transform the Museum into a space for reflection for visitors to leave comments about their 9/11 memories and view the obituaries of individuals from Penn who perished in the attacks, reprinted from The New York Times.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, the Museum will host a day of remembrance and offer special programming.

At 1 p.m., David Brownlee, the Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor in the Department of the History of Art, will deliver a special lecture titled “Making a Monument: The Fall and Rise of the World Trade Center.” Brownlee says when the World Trade Center design was unveiled in 1964, it was harshly criticized as a too-large intrusion on the city and a meaningless piece of abstract art. But after the towers fell, he says they became icons. 

“Clearly, the buildings had not changed, but the context in which people saw them was completely different,” says Brownlee.

At 3 p.m., the theater company Outside the Wire will present “Cato: 9/11,” a presentation of dramatic readings from a play by Joseph Addison titled “Cato” as a catalyst for town hall-style discussions about the lasting impact of the 9/11 attacks on U.S. citizens, communities and the nation at large. Admission is free. Reservations are suggested. 

Originally published on August 18, 2011