So I've heard some quiet outrage about the 9/11 Memorial and Museum having a gift shop, and my reaction is a positive one, which leaves me feeling in a strange place.
You can see some of their store items here www.911memorial.org/catalog These are what I've based my reflections on, so there may be items in the physical store at odds with these, please do let me know if you;re aware of anything else.
I went to a Titanic exhibition at the MOSI a good few years back, and was horribly jarred stepping from the room listing all the names of the dead, through to the gift shop. The issue there was in the main part going from a somber, well presented, touching area, directly into a brightly lit, brightly coloured, overly commercially aware space. There was also issue though with some rather odd choices of merchandise, such as the iceberg ice tray. Nice.
Purchases will help with sessions teaching new generations about terrorism and the complexity behind such attacks; to try and help avoid tarring by association, so they grow up without prejudice against the nations and religions involved. Also, keeping that much real estate as a park, rather than building another skyscraper, is no mean feat in a city where space = $$$. All in all, sounds like a good reason to buy an FDNY t-shirt.
I can't find much fault with the store as shown online, and the venue itself I can't comment on, if it offers a suitable space or jars as badly as Titanic did for me.
The hard bit to wrap my mind around is the American mentality behind it all. This is where I feel strange. There is a rather different approach twixt us and them in how national pride is displayed, and it can be easy to look down a bit at or mock the apple pie, respect the flag, respect your forebears, honest and heartfelt attitude of the folks across the pond. We can feel a bit uncomfortable with how genuine their respect can be, how strong and worn on the sleeve are their emotions.
I expected to view the store online and feel disgusted or confused about product and design choices. Yet, leaving aside the issues around the museum itself, the merchandise seems wholly appropriate when you take a step back and switch gear mentally into 'American'.
If some of the choices in their store seem cash minded, remember that without irony, and more so than cold hearted commercialism, it's driven by genuine national pride and the desire to express solidarity with the victims both dead and living.
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