How might 9/11 memorial sites cultivate relevance among children born after 2001? This paper introduces new research, including child-designed studies, conducted at the Flight 93 National Memorial and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. This research helps us to understand children’s experiences and inform the creation of relevant interpretive content.
Worldwide, thousands of children tour sites of public memory each year (Kerr & Price, 2016). Yet, research largely overlooks their experiences (Khoo-Lattimore, 2015; Poria & Timothy, 2014; Small, 2008). Without understanding children’s experiences at these sites, it becomes difficult to create relevant content. To overcome this obstacle, our multidisciplinary research team applies expertise in child development, trauma, and education to collaborate with interpreters, historians and museum professionals.
This presentation describes our research and its impact on interpretation and exhibits. An initial analysis of hundreds of drawings and notes from children at both sites provided a glimpse into children’s understandings of the events (Kerr, Fried, Price, Cornick & Dugan, 2017; Kerr & Price, 2018). Using children’s own language and images, we developed interpretive materials and offered exhibit suggestions. Our research then examined 350 post-visit comments from children (Burns, 2018; Kerr, Price, Savine, Ifft, & McMullen, 2017; Price, 2018).
We then involved children as co-researchers. Children field-tested a new Junior Ranger handbook, which tells the story of the Flight 93 crash in a developmentally-informed manner (see Kerr, Dugan, & Frese, 2016; Kerr, Shaffer, & Hartman, 2014). Soon, children will test our first audio tours. Additionally, adolescents will design and conduct surveys for the Pentagon Memorial Fund. Implications include new theoretical conceptualizations, suggestions for museum professionals, and guidance for educators and parents who plan children’s travel.