Images courtesy of the National Museum of American History. Please note that a graphic treatment has been applied to the original photographs.

September 11

An evolving legacy

After two decades, the nation continues to feel the lasting effects of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As we mark the 20th anniversary of that day, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History launches a new initiative: 9-11: Hidden Stories, Hidden Voices. The outreach effort seeks to create a more robust national collection of objects and stories that include diverse experiences, not only recording and exploring the day and immediate aftermath of September 11, but also the longer-lasting and varied effects on people’s lives. The collection will demonstrate the repercussions of decisions made during the intervening two decades and how they still affect our political, social, and economic discourse.

9-11: Hidden Stories, Hidden Voices is a five-year program spanning the 20th through 25th anniversaries of the attacks. During this time, the museum is committed to working with diverse communities and actively sharing their stories and the experiences of Americans in a post-September 11 world. For the 20th anniversary, we look forward to collaborating with community partners to share stories through a series of public programs, soliciting a variety of narratives through our digital story-gathering tool and highlighting our continuing work within the New York City Latino community through our website. We commit to working hand-in-hand with our publics to document, record, interpret, and share the ways in which the September 11 attacks have affected the world we live in today. We also commit to sharing the experiences of those who witnessed this tragedy in order to provide understanding for those who have grown up in a world shaped by these events.


The National September 11 Collection

Three months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress officially charged the Smithsonian and the National Museum of American History with collecting and preserving artifacts that would tell the story of that day.

The collections we present on this site represent a work in progress. Early collections embody the best efforts of staff across the National Museum of American History to document and preserve a wide range of stories about September 11. Recent collecting efforts have integrated a more collaborative community-based approach to find underrepresented and unknown stories. Each object, as material evidence of the attacks and their immediate aftermath, is a piece of a large and complex story. The collections will grow as we gain historical perspective and a greater understanding of the events of September 11.

Explore the collection
portrait of Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D.

From the Director

I came up knowing that my mom instinctively placed her hand on her pregnant midsection where I was growing when she learned of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. She wept the tears of an Irish Catholic American who had placed such hope and faith in one of their own.

One of my earliest memories comes from when I was four, and we heard over the AM radio in mom’s 1957 Plymouth Belvedere that the most Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated tragically, as do I remember the morning when I learned Robert F. Kennedy too had fallen to an assassin’s bullet.

It was then 33 years later that in real time, from my mother’s sister’s house in Rhode Island, we experienced September 11, 2001. With two little boys watching Sesame Street upstairs, we took turns dashing downstairs, glued to the television watching the plane hit the second World Trade Center tower, listening to the radio, watching the towers fall, learning of the two other attacks, calling family who were themselves transfixed in awe and horror as they day’s event unfolded.

Like my mother, and like so many generations before me when experiencing a paradigm-shifting tragedy, as long as I have memory I shall not forget that day.

We at your National Museum of American History pledge that none of us shall forget that day. As we approach the 20th anniversary of September 11, the museum is committed to working with a wide range of communities to actively expand the stories and experiences of Americans in a post-September 11 world. We invite you to join us in our work to gather, preserve, and share the many accounts of the ways our world has changed since the September 11 attacks, so that we may collectively contextualize and understand a world forever altered by these tragic events.

To all who lost loved ones and colleagues, to my museum colleagues who worked and continue to do the difficult work around that day—we owe our lasting empathy and compassion as we broaden the lens of understanding of that moment.

Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D.

Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D.
The Elizabeth MacMillan Director, National Museum of American History


If you have a September 11 artifact that you would like to donate, please contact us at or at 202-633-3423 to obtain the proper procedure for donating items to the collections. It is Smithsonian Institution policy not to accept unsolicited donations, so please do not send any items directly.