9/11 Museum Replies to Gift Shop Criticism

NEW YORK (AP/Washington Post) -

National September 11 Memorial Museum officials say victims’ families will continue to be consulted regarding merchandise on sale in its gift shop.

Memorial Foundation President Joe Daniels told The Wall Street Journal that the museum will enlist more help of 9/11 family members who sit on the foundation’s board in vetting the products.

One item in particular that had been criticized has been removed from the museum store. It was a decorative ceramic platter in the shape of the United States, with heart symbols marking the spots where the hijacked planes struck on 9/11.

Daniels says the shop is needed to help support the museum’s operations. He says many visitors want to take home a keepsake to remember the experience.

Mugs, T-shirts, scarves and other souvenirs have triggered controversy at the museum, which holds unidentified remains of some of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It isn’t unusual for museums that commemorate tragedy to have gift shops, which help cover operational costs. There’s one at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, and another at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

But Ground Zero?

“It’s crass commercialism on a literally sacred site,” said Kurt Horning, whose son Matthew died on 9/11. “It’s a burial ground. We don’t think there should be those things offered on that spot. If you want to do it, do it someplace else — but not right there.”

Some of the items for sale in the gift shop are clearly intended to tap into the sense of solidarity that emerged in New York following the attacks, like the plain black T-shirts with the tagline “honor, remember, reunite.” But others, like a black hoodie with the twin towers emblazoned on the front, seem more of a vivid and painful reminder of what was lost. And some pieces of Fire Department memorabilia — including a doggie vest and toy truck — seem trivial.

When the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington opened in 1993, items for the gift store were selected with an intense degree of sensitivity, said Ruth Mandel, who served as vice chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council for a dozen years.

“Books and other historically relevant materials and that sort of thing — that was never controversial,” she said. “It’s just when it turned into souvenir kinds of things, the people who make these decisions on the board and the staffs have to have special antenna and sensitivities for what is appropriate and tasteful.”