Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cultural losses on 9/11

Secondary to the horrific loss of 2,606 lives in New York City on September 11, 2001, in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center is the destruction of numerous artworks, artifacts, and irreplaceable historical records:
  • A total of 300 drawings and sculptures by Auguste Rodin, owned by the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage, where more than 650 employees were killed. Some fragments (1st image) were recovered. A cast of Rodin's "The Thinker" surfaced only to disappear.
  • "The Sphere," a sculpture by German artist Fritz Koenig that stood in the World Trade Center plaza since 1971, was split and partially crushed by falling debris (3rd image). One of the only salvageable works of art found in the wreckage, it was restored and re-erected in Battery Park.
  • Other works of art, including sculptures by Alexander Calder (images here), Louise Nevelson, James Rosati, Kenneth Snelson, and Masayuki Nagare; a painting by Roy Lichtenstein; tapestries by Joan Miró and Romare Bearden; murals by Germaine Keller, Hunt Slonem, and Cynthia Mailman; and a fountain commemorating the victims of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
  • Nearly 900,000 objects excavated from the Five Points neighborhood of lower Manhattan, a famous 19th c. slum. Only 18 of the unique artifacts documenting the lives of these working-class New Yorkers survive (photos here).
  • A set of 40,000 negatives of President John F. Kennedy and his family by his personal photographer Jacques Lowe, most of which had never been published. Only 180 images, that had been removed from the fireproof vault for printing, survived.
  • The archive of the offices of Helen Keller International, with the exception of 2 books (photo here) and a bust (2nd image). Photographs and Keller's correspondence were lost.
  • The contents of the library and most of the video and photo archives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which ironically had a meeting scheduled for the day of the attacks with librarians from Rutgers and other institutions regarding transfer of the collection. Tens of thousands of images dating back to 1921, which represented a fraction of the total number, were found in the rubble at ground zero and nearby, including a contact sheet of pictures of the Port Authority's aviation director William DeCosta (image here).
  • A collection of documents related to U.S. trade dating back to at least the 1840s housed at the Ferdinand Gallozzi Library of the U.S. Customs Service.
The World Trade Center Documentation Task Force convened within 2 weeks of the 9/11 attacks, but "Appropriately, agencies were more concerned with loss of life and rebuilding operations — not managing or preserving records," said David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. And historical archaeologist Rebecca Yamin concurs, "It's hard to get emotional about the artifacts; they're just not significant compared to the loss of human life."

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.