Recovery: The World Trade Center Recovery Operation At Fresh Kills

November 25, 2003
March 21, 2004

The exhibition consists of 65 photographs and over 50 objects recovered from the destroyed World Trade Center. Collectively, they help to tell the unheralded story of what happened when the recovery effort moved beyond Ground Zero to Fresh Kills landfill, the "city on the hill" where recovery workers toiled for long, tedious hours at a disheartening task.

Recovery is the second of what the Historical Society hopes will be many collaborations and exchanges between the two institutions. The first, The Course of Empire: Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School Landscape Tradition, Selections from the New-York Historical Society is on view at the New York State Museum, August 23–November 30, 2003. The New-York Historical Society and New York State Museum began working closely together in the weeks and months following September 11 in a cooperative effort to preserve and interpret the historical record of that unprecedented New York tragedy. The Historical Society launched its History Responds program in October 2001, which since then has comprised a dozen exhibitions, two dozen public programs and a comprehensive collecting and preservation initiative. In September 2002, the New York State Museum opened the nation's largest permanent exhibition about the World Trade Center history and September 11 attacks, The World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery and Response.

The objects for Recovery come from the New York State Museum's large collection of objects, art, oral histories and memorial material from Ground Zero and the Fresh Kills Landfill. In addition to collecting objects, the Museum staff photographed the stark landscape of Fresh Kills, the sorting and sifting operations, hundreds of debris piles and vehicles, and the people involved in the recovery process. Among the objects displayed are a recovered American flag, several World Trade Center souvenirs, building keys, signs, guns and sections of the building facade, marble floor and a fragment of one of the planes. Among the rescue-related objects are a NYPD radio holster, New York Fire Department (NYFD) boot, a firefighter's Scott pack (oxygen tank) and a fragment of a destroyed fire truck. A touch screen interactive contains FBI film of the operations and an inventory of objects in the museum's collections.

"The New York State Museum faced a daunting task in the Fall of 2001," said Museum Director Clifford Siegfried. "As an educational institution which chronicles New York State history, the museum was challenged to select and preserve items from the World Trade Center attack that would speak to our own and future generations and help document an event that was unprecedented in our nation's history. We hope this exhibit will help Americans throughout the country to better understand the historic recovery operation which helped to bring some closure to a grieving nation."

"This exhibition shines a light on the many unsung heroes who worked tirelessly at the 'city on the hill' and offers a glimpse of what they found," said Mark Schaming, the Museum's director of exhibitions who led the WTC collections effort. "Over many months, State Museum staff became acquainted with key recovery personnel and was granted unique access to this historic material. Everyone came to realize that many everyday items were now artifacts that took on added significance because of where they had been, what they had gone through and what they represented."

"The New-York Historical Society is honored that the New York State Museum is bringing this remarkable exhibition to Central Park West," said Kenneth T. Jackson, President. "Our two institutions have been working together to realize a common mission since September 11, to preserve and interpret the unimaginable events of that day and their impact on the metropolitan region and the nation as a whole. We applaud the efforts of Mark Schaming and the State Museum curators who were there to document this important story."

Creative: Tronvig Group