In another sad loss due to the pandemic, the 9/11 Tribute Museum in New York City will close its doors Wednesday after a sharp drop in visitors made financial survival impossible.
To be clear, this is a separate gallery from the official 9/11 Museum that is on the site of the former Twin Towers:
To put it simply, the 9/11 Museum located on the memorial site is the “official” museum. The 9/11 Tribute Museum is run by the September 11 Families Association and focuses more on the personal experiences of those impacted by the attacks.
Nevertheless, it’s an important experience and its loss will be heavily felt. Over 5 million visitors have entered its doors since its founding.
I always wondered why this wasn’t a free, federally funded museum. We can blow billions bombing countries in 9/11’s wake, all for nothing, but can’t keep a museum to 9/11 open without charging admission and having a gift shop. So gross. https://t.co/AvKuGEqZv9
— Chadwick Moore (@Chadwick_Moore) August 17, 2022
The non-profit September 11th Families’ Association was started in November 2001 by families of the victims of the events of that tragic day. They describe their mission on their website:
Active recording, preserving and sharing of these experiences are central to the mission of the 9/11 Tribute Museum. Participation in the Tribute volunteer program has had a documented impact on members of the 9/11 community; promoting an enhanced sense of healing, enhanced compassion and appreciation for their place as history keepers.
The Tribute Museum was created in 2017 and is located just three blocks from the World Trade Center site, encompassing nearly 30,000 square feet. The closure comes just weeks before the nation honors the 21st anniversary of the terror attacks.
On its website, the Tribute Museum describes the personal focus of its exhibits.
At the 9/11 Tribute Museum we remember 9/11 through the stories of those who lived and experienced the tragic events. From guided tours by family members, survivors, and first responders to visual narratives told throughout the exhibits.
Jennifer Adams-Webb, co-founder of the museum and the CEO of the September 11th Families’ Association, told The Post that visitorship cratered after the lockdowns, mandates and travel restrictions cut tourism across the board in NYC at the onset of the COVID crisis:
Two-thirds of our income revenue annually comes from our earned income from admissions. We were completely closed for six months in 2020. We had been averaging 300,000 visitors a year … and last year we had a total of 26,000 visitors, so it completely annihilated our earned income…
There’s no way we’re going to be able to dig out of this at this rate. We need the state or the city to step in with other partners to be able to say, ‘We value you. We want to save this organization,’ but at this point, we can’t continue to dig into a hole.
The museum will send many of its exhibits to the New York State Museum in Albany, where they will doubtless garner millions fewer visitors. The Families’ Association will also work to focus more on their online exhibits.
Gordon Huie, a doctor who helped out on 9/11 and who lost a sibling in the attack, called the museum a “part of our history, this is a part of America. It just hurts so much we’re going to short-change the world when we close this museum down.” Although it’s a non-profit that runs the museum, and not the federal government, it does seem strange—wrong actually—that President Biden just raised the IRS budget to $80 billion in the free-spending Inflation Reduction Act, yet there’s nary a dime for this beloved memorial. You’d think there’d be some way for the city or the feds to help out, especially since the revenue loss experienced was mostly due to strict COVID policies inflicted by state and local government.
My hope is that an outpouring of donations, or perhaps a helping hand from a billionaire, will prevent the closure of this little treasure of a museum before it’s too late.