Last week, when the 9/11 Memorial Museum project team temporarily removed the protective covering from the Last Column and returned the tribute messages to its surfaces, team member after team member walked into the museum’s Foundation Hall and said, "Wow, I haven't seen the Last Column like this since it was removed from the site of the former World Trade Center 11 years ago." And, as most of us had not participated in the recovery, we realized that we had really never seen it upright and with all its ephemera attached.
Looking at this totem, my colleagues and I spent time thinking about the Last Column lying prone at a John F. Kennedy airplane hangar, which was large enough to store it and other remnant steel from the WTC site. There, our conservators, Art Preservation Services, stabilized its rusted surface to protect the steel column for exhibition, and removed the decals, memorial cards, and posters so they too could be preserved before being reattached to the column. We recalled the large artifact, cocooned in a plywood box, being lowered into the museum space by crane before the final pavement was set on the memorial.
On Friday July 12, I watched our media producers, Local Projects, photograph the column. I could see clearly that Foundation Hall would function as our exhibition designers, Thinc Design, had proposed. In this large space, visitors will be able to gather, talk with others, and think about how the events of 9/11 resonate in our lives today. Messages of loss and hope pulled me in — bridging time and space to recall individual acts and the power of community.
Within days, the column will again be covered so that our building contractors can finish the ceiling, walls, and floors around it. When we next see the Last Column fully revealed, we'll be only weeks away from opening the museum's doors to the public in the spring of 2014.
By Amy S. Weisser, Director of Exhibition Development, 9/11 Memorial Museum