About the Collection

At the National Museum of American History, the attacks of September 11, 2001, affected us personally and professionally. Shortly after the attacks, we began discussing what our role as a museum should be and concluded that we had a responsibility to document the events of September 11 in the National Collections.

The immediacy and deadly nature of the events posed particular collecting challenges. We worried about appearing ghoulish in the face of bereavement, about important material deteriorating or even being thrown out, and about whether we understood enough about the events to document them for posterity. And we knew we would have to be selective—we cannot collect everything.

The collection we present on this site represents a work in progress. It embodies the best efforts of staff across the National Museum of American History to document and preserve a wide range of stories about September 11. 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.

Donating to the Collection

Soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History began collecting objects to document and preserve the material record of this important event in American history. The immediate collecting priorities focused on the attacks, the response and rescue efforts, and the commemoration that followed.

The assembled collection may expand somewhat over time. The National Museum of American History would be pleased to consider donations of additional material. While we have been offered many objects related to the attacks and to the numerous responses from around the world, we cannot accept everything. If we do not accept an artifact, we might be able to direct the offer to another institution: we are working with a consortium of museums to document and preserve a selection of objects and responses.

If you have an artifact that you would like to donate, please contact the Museum’s Office of Curatorial Affairs at 202-633-3376 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.

We are also working with the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, which has established an internet archive related to September 11: You might wish to contribute information to that project as well. Thank you for your interest in the National Collections.

Michelle Anne Delaney, Collections Manager, Photographic History Collection
Michelle Anne Delaney, Collections Manager, Photographic History Collection