After 9/11: Messages from the World and Images of Ground Zero
Interpretive Strategies for the Exhibition: After 9/11: Messages from the World and Images of Ground Zero
The United States Diplomacy Center of the Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State created the exhibition After 9/11: Messages from the World and Images of Ground Zero in 2002 to share the global community’s reaction to the events of 9/11 with the American public. These responses, captured in the objects, pictures and letters you see in this exhibition, were delivered or sent to U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, forwarded to the Department of State in Washington, D.C., then transferred to the Diplomacy Center. The pieces you see here represent the quality and quantity of the communications that became the inspiration for our exhibition. These are a tiny fraction of the responses sent to the citizens of the USA. In this study guide we offer some strategies for interpreting the exhibition.
A. It may be useful at first to facilitate a group discussion:
- Where were you on 9/11?
- How did you hear of the events?
- What was your reaction?
- Did you do anything to act on your feelings?
- Did you see examples of people’s reaction to the events? If so, where?
- What were the forms of these responses?
- What are the many different ways people can manifest responses (group gatherings, singing and silence, pictures, words, objects, letters, photographs, lighting of candles.)
B. We suggest visitors take ten minutes to look through the exhibition on their own. Here are some questions they can bear in mind to frame their observations:
- How many different forms of technology did people use to communicate their thoughts?
- What is one of the messages you think people wanted to send?
- How many languages can you find?
- What feelings do the photos on the wall capture?
- Who are in the photos on the wall?
C. Here are three objects you could ask people to examine closely:
- The Australian fireman’s hat in the case "Symbols and Icons" is an object from a
firehouse signed by its members.
- What can you learn about the sender (s) based on the object they offered?
- Even if you didn’t speak their language or were familiar with their culture, how does the object
speak to you?
Follow up questions for later discussion:
What kinds of objects did people leave in honor of the event?
Why did they leave them?
- A letter in the "Innocence from Abroad" is case from a German girl. The text reads as follows:
"Hello Mr. President!
Why you don’t speak with Bin Laden? In our shool [school] the word is STOP. Than [Then] everybody has to finish fighting. Test it. Together you will get more money for a new Trade Center. I don’t want waer [war]. I’m very afraid. Kim"
- What do you learn about the child by reading the letter?
- What do you think about the advice she offers?
- To whom does she address the letter.
Interpretive strategies for the exhibition After 9/11: Messages from the World and Images of Ground Zero
Follow up questions:
If you had written a letter on 9/11, what would it have said?
Who would you have written it to?
Make sure to ask if people have had a chance to add a message to the paperscroll in the exhibition
- The page in Arabic and English from the case "The Power of the Word" is the front of a condolence book for people to sign that was left at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. These formal books appeared in American embassies around the world. Afterwards, the embassies preserved the books and many sent them to the Department of State in Washington, DC.
- How many languages appear on this page?
- How is this different from some of the other things you see in the exhibition?
- Why do you think our embassies provided condolence books for people to sign?
Follow up questions:
What else did you see that made a strong impression on you?
Why do you think it made such a strong impression?
D. These are some questions to guide a discussion that focuses on the exhibition’s content:
- Why is it important to save and remember these responses?
- How will they help future generations understand the event?
- What else should be collected to remember the history of 9/11?
- In documenting history, people need to consider many perspectives. What perspectives does this exhibition reveal?
E. Some background information on embassies, consulates and the Department of State:
- People sent the messages of After 9/11 to embassies and consulates across the world. Ambassadors work from embassies in capitals as the chief representatives of the U.S. in other countries. Consulates are located in capitals and major cities. Foreign and Civil Service officers in American embassies and consulates strive to build good relations with the U.S. and other nations. If you visit an embassy or consulate, you will most likely meet a Consular officer whose main job is to help U.S. citizens who are traveling or living abroad.
Embassies and consulates are the overseas offices of the U.S. Department of State, the oldest and most important agency of our federal government to undertake diplomacy. Diplomacy is the work of creating and maintaining relationships with our international neighbors. The head of the Department of State is the Secretary of State, who is chosen by the President, and confirmed by Congress.
- There is extensive information about the Department of State at: www.state.gov or the student web site at www.future.state.gov
- The United States Diplomacy Center of the Department of State organized and curated After 9/11 to help the healing process and emphasize national resilience after the attacks. The Diplomacy Center is creating a visitor center for the Department of State and a museum to tell the story of the history, challenges and practice of diplomacy.
- What can we learn about international relations and diplomacy from the exhibit?
- Does viewing this exhibition influence your thoughts on the ways diplomacy might influence your life?