August 2011 | Nate Pedersen

9/11 and Cultural Loss

The Associated Press reported last week on the loss of historical records and documents in the 9/11 attacks, a frequently (if understandably) overlooked aspect of the tragedy.  The twenty-one libraries destroyed in the World Trade Center attacks joined a long list of war-damaged archives stretching back to the Library of Alexandria.

Among the lost and missing:

  • The art and sculpture collection of the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage, which included a cast of Rodin's "The Thinker."  The brokerage's founder, B. Gerald Cantor, was one of the world's largest private collectors of Rodin.

  • The Ferdinand Gallizoli Library of the U.S. Customs Service, which included U.S. trade documents dating back to the 1840s.

  • Over 900,000 objects from the Five Points Neighborhood during its heyday as a working class slum.  (Vividly depicted in the Martin Scorsese film "Gangs of New York")

  • The archive of Helen Keller International, which burned up in the aftermath of the crash and included a number of Helen Keller first editions and original letters. (For more on this, read FB&C's story from a few years back.)

  • A significant portion of the photographic archive of the Broadway Theatre Archive, which held 35,000 photos depicting the development of the American stage. 

Most of these items were destroyed in the attacks or the aftermath, however some are classified as *missing* and thus may be out there circulating in the trade for rare documents and antiquities.  The bust of Rodin's "The Thinker," for example, turned up briefly after the attacks only to disappear again.  So stay vigilant.

A more detailed report of the cultural loss sustained on 9/11 is available here as a PDF from Heritage Preservation.