Looking Back and Looking Forward: 911digitalarchive.org

With just a few days to go before the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, cultural heritage institutions and the press have been doing a wonderful job of covering the complicated issues associated with preserving and presenting the history and memories of that day. At the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, we’re pleased to be able to reopen the collecting portal for the September 11 Digital Archive as a way to contribute to this effort. With over 150,000 items, 911digitalarchive.org presents the public with one of the best ways to get a sense of how individuals have reflected on the tragedy of September 11th and its impact over the course of the last decade.

Much has changed in the world of digital archives and preservation since we embarked upon this work with our partners at the American Social History Project|Center for Media and Learning (CUNY) in 2002. As a result, we are embarking on the work of migrating the Archive to Omeka so that it will have a infrastructure that will improve both popular and scholarly access to the materials for years to come.

This work is being supported by a “Saving America’s Treasures” grant administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Park Service. Unfortunately, the SAT program was a casualty of the most recent budget fights, and it will no longer be a route to preservation and stabilization for our cultural heritage materials. The funding for this type of work from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission is all similarly endangered in the current political environment.

Perhaps as we reflect on the meaning and impact of September 11th on our nation and our cultural life, we might all contribute a reflection to the Archive. Second, we might write to our Congressional representatives to tell them how essential it is that we maintain our commitment to the preservation and presentation of the cultural heritage materials that play such an important role in those reflections. That commitment demands continued public support for the grant making institutions that make our work possible.

About Sharon Leon

Sharon M. Leon is Director of Public Projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and Associate Professor of History at George Mason University. Her research interests include the history of religion in the U.S., especially Roman Catholicism, history of science and twentieth century cultural history. She received her bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and her doctorate in American Studies at the University of Minnesota in 2004. Her first book, An Image of God: the Catholic Struggle with Eugenics, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2013.
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