September 11th Digital Archive

The irreparable effect of 9/11 on contemporary society is a phenomenon posterity will recognize as a facet of everyday life. Those born during the turn of the twentieth century will most likely develop prosthetic memories of the event through the wave of militaristic films produced in the wake of the attack. The September 11 Digital Archive created in 2002 provides these generations a platform to learn about 9/11 through “first-hand accounts, emails, and other electronic communications, digital photographs and artworks, and a range of other digital materials.” The American Social History Project at the City University of New York Graduate Center partnered with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University to create a permanent record of the 9/11 epoch. A partnership with the Library of Congress forged in 2003 resulted in the archive becoming a permanent collection and the first digital acquisition of the national institution. In 2011 the National Park Service and the NEH awarded the Archive a Saving America’s Treasure Grant to ensure its longevity. The historians and archivists who created the September 11 Digital Archive also see it as an opportunity to analyze how historical events are digitized and preserved in the twenty-first century. The main objective of this archive is to break through the political cacophony dominating the memory of the attacks by preserving and highlighting the stories of those who lived through it. The site also provides historical context to help viewers understand the lasting effects of this event on the contemporary political, social, and cultural discourse. The FAQs About 9/11 tab includes a variety of links to different news sites, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, government reports about the rebuilding efforts, and links to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, Flight 93 National Memorial, and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

By clicking the collections tab of the archive viewers can explore the eclectic sources preserved on the site which include oral histories, paintings, chains of emails, and action reports produced in the aftermath of the attacks. What differentiates this archive from standard ones is that the collections constitute of emails and the personal thoughts people in the immediate aftermath of the event. Some of the personal collections, such as that of Alex Ringer, place 9/11 within a global context which compels viewers to recognize the global ramifications that spurred from the event.

One collection item that immediately captured my attention was a collection of emails titled the Vivek Sud emails. The email chain is between a group of coworkers attempting to discern what is going on and if everyone in their office is safe. By examining these emails viewers of the archives can obtain a glimpse into the commotion that occurred on September 11th. By looking at the timestamps of the emails and juxtaposing it with one of the timelines provided in the FAQ visitors of the site can observe what some of the immediate reactions were to the different attacks that occurred throughout the day. Also included in the Items list is an oral history interview conducted by Rebecca Brenner Graham who is a Ph.D. candidate in history at American University with Steve Navon who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, a business in the North Tower, who was late to work on 9/11. During this interview, Navon recounts his morning with explicit detail as well as the importance of remembering those who lost their lives in the attack.

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