American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

Library of Congress Acquires The September 11 Digital Archive

Published March 24, 2011

The Library of Congress will mark its first major digital acquisition of September 11, 2001, materials with the addition to its collections of The September 11 Digital Archive. The Digital Archive is a joint project of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning and George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media – two organizations that have explored digital history for more than a decade.

On Sept. 10, 2003 the Library of Congress will formally accept the material, which contains more than 135,000 written accounts, e-mails, audio recordings, video clips, photographs, Web sites and other digital materials that document the attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C., and western Pennsylvania and their aftermath. These items will provide researchers with a major source of information about the attacks. “Even in the midst of the initial chaos of the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the Library of Congress began collecting materials documenting the attacks,” said Diane Kresh, director of the Library’s Public Service Collections. “Since that time, the Library has been amassing material through its public service divisions and overseas offices. This September 11 Digital Archive, with its vast content of firsthand accounts, will add to the broad range and diversity of materials already acquired by the Library of Congress that relate to the September 11 tragedy.”

These digital materials offer a wide spectrum of opinions and perspectives, ranging from recordings of Manhattan residents’ voicemails on the morning of September 11 to drawings by children from Los Angeles depicting the attacks. “As with other collective historical events,” said Eric Foner, Columbia University DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, “the memory of September 11 will be an essential part of historical understanding in the future. By preserving the raw material of history — which now includes evidence recorded in digital form — The September 11 Digital Archive will help contribute to subsequent generations’ understanding of the past and, therefore, of themselves.”

The Archive is the largest digital collection of September 11-related materials, serving as the Smithsonian Institution’s designated repository for digital objects related to the attacks. The availability of these materials in the Library of Congress will prove invaluable to future historians and researchers.

To mark the acquisition of The Digital Archive, the Library of Congress will host a daylong symposium, “September 11 as History: Collecting Today for Tomorrow.” The event, which will take place in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on September 10, will feature commentary by leading U.S. historians, librarians, and archivists, including Ronald Walters, University of Maryland, and Michael Kazin, Georgetown University. Kazin’s keynote address is “12/12 and 9/11: Tales of Power and Tales of Experience in Contemporary History.”

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