9/11 museum to change restrictions on researchers after backlash
NEW YORK (AP) – The 9/11 Museum in New York is rolling back unusual restrictions on researchers after complaints the institution was choking on scholarships.
Until at least August 21, the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum’s website detailed “academic research rules and regulations” for access to its collection. They asked the researchers to let museum staff review their work before publication and adopt “any text changes” proposed by the museum as a condition of obtaining the institution’s “consent” to publish.
The rules stipulated that the institution had the right to exercise “legal remedies” if a researcher did not comply, although the museum says it never did and is now removing the requirements. review and legal threat.
At first, “our main concern was the misuse of materials donated to the museum for the purpose of misrepresenting” by people trying to prove conspiracy theories of the September 11 terrorist attacks, said the executive vice president of the museum. museum, Clifford Chanin.
“We have learned from our experience,” he said.
Archives, museums and their donors vary in what they ask researchers, but experts say the museum’s rules for 9/11 seemed unusually onerous.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Stephanie Brown, who teaches museum studies at Johns Hopkins University and has served as museum director, curator and archivist. She said the policy might cause researchers to look elsewhere for material: “It just seems very micro-managerial. “
Indeed, at least two researchers have waived the rules in recent years, said Chanin, who said the museum still agreed to the interviews and started reconsidering the policy after the last scientific objection arose this summer.
Christina Simko, a sociology professor at Williams College, asked in July how to interview staff for a museum project linked to terrorism. She said she was ready to share a possible draft for comment, but would not give the museum the authority to edit her work.
“I was particularly surprised that an institution of national memory maintains this, because freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic value,” said Simko, who said she was pleased that the museum quickly reconsidered.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for two filmmakers who gave the museum a wealth of 9/11-related videos – but then made a critical documentary about it – accused him in an Aug. 13 letter of “restricting research, free historical exploration and use. “
“We don’t think there should be restrictions on what people post,” filmmaker Steven Rosenbaum said in an interview.
He and his wife and co-director, Pamela Yoder, fell out with the museum this year over his objections to their documentary, “The Outsider”. While the museum’s review of their film was negotiated separately from the research rules, Rosenbaum argues that both show the institution wants to “control the story” of 9/11.
“There is a pattern of facts here that is truly disturbing,” he said, for “where America remembers this story and the investigation”.
(The museum’s top lawyer, meanwhile, criticized Rosenbaum and Yoder in a letter of August 27 for their own restrictions on the given video: they collect license fees from anyone else seeking to use the images in films or other work. Rosenbaum says that does not matter “and there is no comparison between a small film company and the archives of a nonprofit museum.)
The 9/11 Museum has the complex responsibility of serving as both a memorial and a place to educate and research an event with living survivors. However, some other institutions with similar missions do not ask academics as much.
The Oklahoma City National Museum and Memorial website invites researchers to submit summaries of their projects and where they plan to publish, but not for advance review. Neither does the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where the website simply asks applicants for the purpose of their research, such as a course, book, or genealogy.
“Access should be available as uncrowded as possible,” said Michael Berenbaum, professor of Jewish studies at the American Jewish University who oversaw the establishment of the Holocaust museum. It favors “maximum opening, minimum restrictions, even if that means sensitive material”.
The 9/11 museum began responding to research requests long before it opened in 2014, said Chanin, who has been involved since 2005. He could not specify when the university research rules came into effect, but has said it was an effort to “systematize” the institution’s relations. with researchers seeking access to documents or interviews with staff.
The museum asked the researchers to see their work before publication, but never insisted, tried to block publication or took legal action, Chanin said. Few of the scholarly requests, if any, have ended up sounding the alarm bells about “misuse” or an erroneous quote, he added.
Deciding on politics “is something we have to move away from,” Chanin said.
He expects him to distinguish between requests for interviews and scholarly papers and ask researchers about the basics of their project and what they are looking for – but will no longer call for a formal plan and questions to ask. interview, will no longer require or talk about pre-publication approval. take legal action against the researchers. __ This story has been updated to correct the name of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC This is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, not the US Holocaust Memorial & Museum.