Military medallions from Pentagon offices damaged and fused by heat after the September 11 attack. Transfer from the U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Personal Effects Depot, Fort Myer.


September 11: Bearing Witness to History

Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

In a mere two hours on September 11, 2001, the world was a horrified witness to history.

September 11: Bearing Witness to History opened at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) on the first anniversary of the attacks. Bringing together objects, images, and personal stories that help recall this historic day and its impact, this exhibition is a place for visitors to remember and reflect: through photographs and moving images that capture moments from the attacks and their aftermath; through the voices of survivors, rescue workers, and others; and, most powerfully, through objects such as steel from the World Trade Center, damaged items from the Pentagon, clothing worn by survivors, and objects left at memorial sites. Embracing its theme, September 11 also offers visitors the opportunity to tell their own stories, to bear witness to history in their own words.

September 11 includes a 10-minute video, produced by ABC News, which focuses on the personal experiences of news anchor Peter Jennings and other members of the media who had the daunting task of relating the day’s tragic events to the public, while coming to terms with the situation themselves. Touch-screen interactive units allow visitors to experience the personal reflections of a diverse group of survivors, rescuers, witnesses, and others with first-hand accounts of September 11.

Visitors themselves are invited to respond to two questions: “How did you witness history on September 11, 2001?” and “Has your life changed because of that day?”

Host museums are encouraged to collect their visitors’ responses and to submit them to the Smithsonian Institution as part of a national effort to document individual reactions to the events of September 11.

An informative website maintained by NMAH allows users to search the entire September 11 collection online for images, descriptions, reference materials, and stories from curators and donors.




47 artifacts (most from the Smithsonian’s September 11 collections), video, 4 touchscreen interactive units, floor and wall cases, banners, text panels, labels


Brochure, educational website, educational resources, PR materials, speaker list, bibliography, templates and instructions for producing visitor response cards

Square Feet (Meters) 3,000-3,500 sq. feet (278-325 sq. meters)



6,510 kg (13,535 lb.)

Category History and Culture


Toured Through

February 2006


Dates   Host Institution Status
9/11/03 1/4/04 Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Fort Worth, TX Booked
1/31/04 6/6/04 East Tennessee Historical Society, Knoxville, TN Booked
7/1/04 8/15/04 Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA Booked
9/11/04 1/2/05 Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, PA Booked
1/29/05 4/24/05 Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, WA Booked
5/21/05 8/14/05 Union Station, Kansas City, Kansas City, MO Booked
9/10/05 1/1/06 National Heritage Museum, Lexington, MA Booked



Exhibition brochure with haunting color images and quotes from both World Trade Center survivors and ordinary Americans. Produced in collaboration with the National Museum on American History.

Download this free brochure




Press Release

Smithsonian Launches Tour of September 11 Exhibition

Nearly two years after the shocking terrorist attacks in the United States, Americans continue to connect to the events of September 11. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) presents "September 11: Bearing Witness to History, " an interactive, commemorative exhibition that encourages visitors to not only reflect on the specific events of that horrific day, but also to contemplate the significance of experiencing an historic event as it unfolds.

In December 2001, Congress named the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History the nation's official repository for artifacts pertaining to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The museum brought samples of these artifacts together in a temporary exhibition, which opened on Sept. 11, 2002 and closed this month.

In the spring of 2003, Congress allotted funding to the Smithsonian to circulate this exhibition to audiences across the nation. The traveling exhibition will open at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in Fort Worth, Texas, on the second anniversary of the attacks, Sept. 11, 2003. The exhibition will remain on view through Jan. 4, 2004, and will continue on a national tour through 2005.

"The Smithsonian is home to many of our nation's greatest historic treasures, artifacts that tell the remarkable story about what it means to be an American," said SITES director Anna Cohn. "This new traveling exhibition affords people across the country an opportunity to reflect on one day and its aftermath, a turning point in our history."

More than 1 million people visited the "September 11" exhibit in the 10 months it was on view at the National Museum of American History. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to share their experiences. "In this exhibit I see why America is great, why terrorism will never tear us apart. It is the people who choose to visit, to commemorate, to remember. We are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and everything in between. . ." wrote a 20-year-old visitor from Denver shortly after the exhibition opened. This activity will be continued as the exhibition travels throughout the country and the new stories will be added to the collection of the National Museum of American History.

The traveling version of "September 11" closely follows the original exhibition by bringing together objects, images and personal stories that help recall this historic day and its impact on our nation. Photographs and moving images capture moments from the attack, and visitors confront powerful artifacts including twisted steel from the World Trade Center, damaged items from the Pentagon, memorials from the crash site in Pennsylvania, clothing worn by survivors, and objects used by rescue workers and public officials.

The collection also includes several everyday items that have now taken on extraordinary significance because of their association with the Sept. 11 events. One of the newly exhibited objects is a filing cabinet from a Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop in the World Trade Center's shopping concourse. The crushed and twisted metal holds file folders in its mangled form.

The Web site for "September 11: Bearing Witness to History" is available to the public at The Web site provides access to the museum's entire September 11 collection - currently more than 140 objects - as well as interviews with curators. Visitors to the site may respond to the questions posed in the exhibition. After the exhibition closes, the database will remain online as a permanent Web feature, expanding as the September 11 collection grows and providing the public with virtual access to the entire collection.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History traces American heritage through exhibitions of social, cultural, scientific and technological history. Collections are displayed in exhibitions that interpret the American experience from the Colonial times to the present.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science, and history, which are shown wherever people live, work, and play, including museums, libraries, science centers, historical societies, community centers, botanical gardens, schools and shopping malls.




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