Publication Date

December 1, 2001

Perspectives Section


Cultural Institutions Affected by September 11 Terrorist Attacks: An Update

The National Task Force on Emergency Response has issued a updated report on the impact that the events of September 11 had on museums and collections, historic sites and landmarks, libraries, and archives in the New York and Washington D.C. areas. The task force is a coalition of 30 government agencies and national service organizations formed in 1995 to help libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and historic sites better protect cultural and historic resources from damage due to disasters. Based on information contained in that damage assessment and on information gleaned from additional press reports, here is what we can report.

For the most part, historic and art collections are basically sound. Most continuing problems relate to dust, ventilation systems, and interruptions to communications. For the some 245 pieces of outdoor sculpture in Lower Manhattan, however, there is no accurate report of damage as yet, except for excessive dust and soot. Battery Park appears most affected.

According to the Task Force update, “a spectacular art collection, including sculptures and drawings by Rodin,” was destroyed when the World Trade Center Towers collapsed. It is still too early to determine exactly how much art was destroyed because much of it was owned by private companies and most of them have yet to detail their losses. Cantor Fitzgerald lost hundreds of staff and the world’s largest private collection of works by Rodin in the gallery known as the Museum in the Sky. The collection also included 19th-century American and European paintings, sculptures, and photographs. Moreover, works by Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, Joan Mir6 and Roy Lichtenstein have been damaged or totally destroyed. National Public Radio reports that a tapestry by Spanish surrealist Joan Miro, which was in the mezzanine of Tower Two, is presumed lost. Elyn Zimmerman’s memorial fountain to the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was also lost.

Historic preservationists report that most of the 67 city landmarks below Chambers Street are unscathed though ash-laden. Some 13 historically or architecturally important buildings suffered various degrees of damage. The hardest hit building was the National Park Service unit, Federal Hall National Memorial.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has been alerted to the existence of a valuable collection of artifacts related to the Five Points site and the African American Burial Ground (See NCC WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol. 7, #38, September 20, 2001). The collection was being maintained by the General Services Administration and was stored in the basement near 6 World Trade Center. The collection has yet to be located in the ruins.

With the exception of the New Amsterdam Branch of the New York Public Library, most libraries in the area below 14th Street have reopened. Located in Building 2 of the World Trade Center, the National Developmental Research Institute’s library, however, was totally destroyed. In terms of the impact on archival collections, characterized as “probably lost” by the Task Force report, is a collection of 35,000 photographs and their documentation from the former Broadway Theater Archive. The archive was located in the offices of Broadway Digital Entertainment, one block from 7 World Trade Center.

On September 24, various New York State preservation agencies met to mobilize and to provide assistance to institutions affected by the terrorist attacks. Participants attending the meeting have now undertaken several actions: (a) gathering information on damage to collections and institutions; (b) organizing appropriate materials and volunteers; (c) disseminating information on available services; and (d) coordinating efforts with national organizations. A full report on the meeting is available from Christine Ward at the New York State Archives, who can be reached at

A consortium of five historic preservation organizations (the World Monuments Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Preservation League of New York State, the Municipal Art Society, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy) is creating the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund. It will make grants to help alleviate the impact of the disaster and to restore damaged historic sites in Lower Manhattan. A special web site has been established: https://www.

The Library of Congress is also collecting and documenting information on the Internet related to September 11. A new site, went online October 11, and already contains more than 500,000 Internet pages.

On October 4, some 70 historians, librarians, archivists, and historic site managers met under the auspices of the Museum of the City of New York and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to encourage communication and collaboration on the issues of collecting and programming in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. A first step will be the establishment of, a web page where news and communications can be posted.

Justice Announces New FOIA Guidelines

In a memo dated October 12, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a new policy statement directing federal agency heads to exercise caution in releasing records to journalists and others under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In the statement that supersedes a 1993 memorandum issued by Attorney General Janet Reno, agencies are urged to “carefully consider” issues such as threats to national security and the effectiveness of law enforcement in responding to FOIA requests. According to the memo, “Any discretionary decision by your agency to disclose information protected under FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information.” Ashcroft promised agencies that legitimately decided to turn down requests made under FOIA will have the full backing of the Department of Justice.

FOIA has frequently been the vehicle for journalists, historians, and others to reveal government wrongdoing and waste and abuse, as well as a mechanism to gain a better understanding of the contextual realm of agency decision-making.

Caesar Andrews, president of the Associated Press Managing Editors, believes that public access should not be weakened, although “during these very volatile and sensitive times there will be information that needs to be kept classified.” Nevertheless, the NCC would be very interested to learn of any instances of FOIA denials made to members of the historical community because of the provisions spelled out in the new FOIA memo. To report instances, please contact NCC director, , at

The new guidelines can be accessed at

For purposes of comparison, Attorney General Reno’s 1993 memorandum may be found at:

Interior Bill Ready for President’s Signature

The fiscal 2002 Department of the Interior and Related Agencies spending bill (H.R. 2217; Conference Report 107-234) is ready for the President’s signature, but at this writing, due to business interruptions owing to the various anthrax threats on Capitol Hill, the bill has not yet made it to the White House.

Agreement on the conference report by Senate and House conferees was reached on October 10, 2001, and both houses passed the $19.1 billion measure on October 17. The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 95-3, and the House by 380-28. Of particular interest to the historical/ archival community are the funding levels for a variety of historic preservation related programs, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Congress cleared and sent to the president a bill that provides $1 billion more than he requested for programs in the Interior Department and a number of related cultural agencies. The final version allocates $9.4 billion to the Interior Department-a $48 million increase over fiscal 2001 and $269 million more than the president requested.

The National Park Service, the principal agency providing funding for a wide variety of federal historic preservation programs, is slotted to get $2.32 billion, overall, some $194.6 million less than the Administration requested. The National Park Service “operations” account is funded at $1.5 billion, some $91 million more than in fiscal 2001 total of $44.5 million is set aside for various historic preservation activities. The Historic Preservation Fund will net $74.5 million and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will see $3.4 million for its necessary expenses. The bill also provides some $30 million for the popular “Save America’s Treasures” program.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will get $125 million-$5 million more than the administration requested. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is to receive $115.2 million (funding is at $98 million with an additional $17 million for the “Challenge America Arts Fund”)-some $10 million above the president’s request. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) will receive $26.9 million. The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $497 million, some $43 million above fiscal 2001 and $3 million above the president’s request. Finally, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is authorized at $7.8 million to carry out the provisions of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Act.

Memorial for the Victims of Terrorist Attacks

On October 2, 2001, Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) introduced legislation (H.R. 2982) to authorize the establishment of a memorial in the District of Columbia to the victims of terrorist attacks on the United States. The legislation currently has over 80 cosponsors. It directs the secretary of the interior to work with the National Capital Memorial Commission and a new commission that would be established and known as the Victims of Terrorism Memorial Commission. The commissions are charged with finding a suitable location and selecting a suitable design for the memorial “from proposals solicited and accepted from qualified American architects.”

Members of the Victims of Terrorism Memorial Commission would include the chair of the National Capital Memorial Commission, several members appointed by the congressional leadership and two members appointed by the president. Funds for the memorial are to be raised from private sector sources. The legislation was referred to the House Committee on Resources where it is expected to receive prompt consideration.

Cesar Estrada Chavez Study Act

Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation (H.R. 2966) to authorize the secretary of the interior to conduct a special resource study of sites associated with the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement to determine appropriate methods for preservation and interpretation. The measure was referred to the House Committee on Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands with a request for executive comment from the Department of the Interior.

Chavez’s life as a labor organizer and founder of the National Farm Workers Association (later United Farm Workers of America) is well documented. The study will transcend Chavez’s life, because the secretary is asked to assess the broader issue-the history of agricultural labor in the West. The legislation authorizes $300,000 for the special three-year study. The report is to assess sites for potential inclusion as units of the National Park System, and is to identify and determine the eligibility of sites for listing on the National Register of Historic Places or for listing as National Historic Landmarks.

Long Walk National Historic Trail Study Act

On October 2, 2001, the House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 1384) introduced by Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) authorizing the secretary of the interior to conduct a study to assess the suitability of designating a series of routes in Arizona and New Mexico that would comprise a trail corridor to be known as the Long Walk National Historic Trail. The legislation now will go the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for consideration.

The “Long Walk” is historically significant because in the fall of 1863 and winter of 1864, the United States government rounded-up thousands of Navajos and Mescalero Apaches and forced them to trek from their ancestral lands in northeastern Arizona and northwest New Mexico to Bosque Redondo, a remote and desolate site near Fort Sumner, New Mexico-some 350 miles distance-where members of the tribes were held captive for over four years. During that time, thousands of Native Americans died from starvation, malnutrition, disease, exposure, or as a result of conflicts with United States military personnel. After four years of imprisonment, however, President Ulysses S. Grant issued an executive order terminating the military’s role and the government entered into treaty negotiations with the native peoples. When an agreement was reached, the Navajo and Mescalero Apaches were allowed to return to their home via the same trail corridor.

Bruce Craig is director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.