Is the 9/11 Museum Gift Shop Peddling Crass Consumerism?
Should themed knickknacks be sold at the site where thousands died?
The newly opened National September 11 Memorial and Museum can’t seem to avoid controversy. At first, the institution angered some family members of victims by deciding to store unidentified human remains on site. Later, atheists took exception to the inclusion of a cross-shaped steel beam that inspired rescue workers and brought hope to many in the days following the tragedy (see artnet News report). Then, there were those who argued that the $24 general admission price was exploitatively high. Now, the museum gift shop has attracted criticism for its assortment of 9/11-themed knickknacks, jewelry, clothing, and other assorted souvenirs, reports NPR.
Among the various items available at the museum store annex on Vesey Street are Robert Indiana HOPE note cards ($15.95), jewelry inspired by the memorial’s reflecting pools ($26), $5 Livestrong-style rubber bracelets, and plastic “honor and remember” water bottles for $20.95 apiece. While there are a substantial number of historically relevant books and DVDs for sale, there are also stuffed rescue dogs, model cop cars, and firefighter outfits for the kiddies.
The museum’s strict policy that any and all press must be thoroughly vetted and pre-approved by the institution’s communications department prior to their visit is apparently enforced at the off-site gift shop as well. artnet News was reprimanded by security for taking a photo of some of the merchandise (see below), and very nearly escorted off the premises for continuing to browse, although we were ultimately spared that embarrassing fate (unlike one reporter from Gothamist).
For better or worse, the much-maligned 9/11 cheese plate, in the shape of the continental US with small hearts marking the sites of each of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, pointed out by Gothamist, was nowhere to be seen (although artnet News did not visit the store inside the museum itself). There are still plenty of 9/11-themed items to be had, ranging from iPhone cases and silk scarves to Christmas tree ornaments and American flags.
If you want a magnet featuring the commemorative 9/11 motorcycle by American Chopper‘s Paul Jr. Designs, $4 has you covered, while the store will have you fashionably accessorized in a custom Brooks Brothers tie in 9/11 memorial blue, black, and white for only $45. The shop’s offerings top out with a $120 silver mobius bracelet engraved with the Virgil quote “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”
Many family members of victims are outraged by what they see as a brazen attempt to turn a profit on the very site where their loved ones died, but the museum has its operating costs to consider. As museum spokesperson Michael Frasier told the Washington Post, “to care for the Memorial and Museum, our organization relies on private fundraising, gracious donations and revenue from ticketing and carefully selected keepsake items for retail.”
The market for clothing and other apparel commemorating the 9/11 attacks has always had considerable appeal to tourists and others wishing for a tangible means of honoring those who lost their lives that day, but many see cheese plates and dog vests as a step too far. It’s a hard balance to strike, and one that the museum may want to recalibrate in the coming months.
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