Peter Liebhold
September 11 Collecting Curator
Museum Specialist, Division of the History of Technology

"...we don't really know how people are going to react to these objects."
While we have a lot of experience collecting objects and thinking about history, quite frankly we don't really know how people are going to react to these objects. When we first started collecting material a lot of things seemed to us to be very worrisome, that they were so graphic, they were so horrible--it wasn't clear that it was appropriate for us to collect.

We knew though, based on the Smithsonian's experience that things should be preserved, even if they weren't to be seen right away. That when Lincoln was assassinated, the Smithsonian was given the top hat that he wore and the chair that he was sitting on. The Secretary of the Smithsonian was so appalled by that. It was hidden away for many years. Today itís one of our most valuable artifacts, and people look at it and feel comfortable in it telling an important story about American history, but not really a gruesome personal story.

Weíve collected a broad array of materials, some of which we're very comfortable people will be very easily able to connect with and deal with, and other materials which might be more troublesome and might stay in the back rooms until they've taken on a different kind of feeling. It's possible that we've made lots of mistakes. Itís not at all clear to us what the public wants, or will react to the collections, and I think that only the future will really tell us what it means.