• Wr_1

    Local Projects: 9/11 Museum


Interactive: Jake Barton on designing media exhibits for the 9/11 Museum

Posted by Rob Alderson,

There was a great deal of coverage of the 9/11 Memorial Museum when it opened last week, and on the whole the arts and design press focussed on the architectural angle. But museums are (or should be) much more than buildings; and Brooklyn-based interactive design studio Local Projects was tasked with bringing this complex and controversial chapter in contemporary history to life.

Founder Jake Barton has the day etched on his memory. “I heard about the planes from a random New Yorker in a small shop in Harlem, and I eventually made my way downtown by bicycle to see the events with my own eyes. Like all New Yorkers it was traumatic, and for me the event really signalled a change in my city.”

  • Explore911_2

    Local Projects: 9/11 Museum

  • Explore911_1

    Local Projects: 9/11 Museum

Local Projects worked both on the overall vision for the museum and designed and produced 90 multimedia pieces. How though do you begin to make sense of an event like this? “You begin with the audience and the highest aspirations for how to transform that audience. What are they to feel? How can your work change them or provoke them to think differently about something?  Most of all how can you engage people and make the exhibit a productive part of their experience and world view?

“The material is very challenging, and certainly like many involved there were nightmares and personal trauma. But the biggest challenge was trying to make the right visitor experience, to balance telling the full truth with the need to engage and make things relevant.”

The other challenge is the breadth of the target audience; multi-generational, international, people who were there or who loved lost ones to schoolchildren who weren’t even born.

“We broke down the audience as an early exercise and saw that at the extremes we have people who lived through the event, survivors for whom there is a direct experience, and then also people who know nothing about the event.

“We always wanted to use the stories from one to engage and educate the other. This meant rethinking the museum as a platform, a space to gather and exchange stories. This also allowed us to think about experiences that would address the evolving meaning of 9/11. 

“So you design for such a broad demographic by considering the extremes and engaging them on their own terms. In this case the same experience is meant to engage both in an exchange between them.

“I’d say the 9/11 Museum has tried hard to make exhibition experiences that allow people to tell their own story, leaning into the controversy by allowing people to speak their mind. It’s a cathartic and important part of the exhibition, inviting people with multiple viewpoints to comment on controversial topics.”

It was also a learning experience for Jake and his team. “We discovered that a museum doesn’t need to be finished, that it can be a platform, an evolving dynamic changing set of experiences that hold truths and histories that evolve.

“We have en exhibition called the Timescape that algorithmically defines the post 9/11 world by scraping and assembling different news articles every night. It frames how the world looks and understands the impact of 9/11 each and every day.”

  • Lp_wr

    Local Projects: 9/11 Museum

For his own part, Jake says it was an “honour” to work on the project. “It’s estimated that a third of the world watched the event live, making it one of the most documented events in human history.  The weight of all those personal connections to the event made for a challenging but deeply rewarding project.”

And with such a weighty piece of work now open to the public, are there any other complex themes or subjects he’d like to explore? “I would really like to make a difference with climate change. I don’t really understand how to make a positive impact as it seems so difficult to get humans to engage talking about and dealing with a subject without clear villains, answers or present-danger threats, but everyone knows it’s the biggest problem we face.”

  • Mh_2

    Local Projects: 9/11 Museum

  • Mh_3

    Local Projects: 9/11 Museum

  • Mh_6

    Local Projects: 9/11 Museum


Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Interactive View Archive

  1. Featuringfeaturing-gottlund-6-int

    Y’know that dream of leaving London, forming a commune and living off the land? Well, creative studio Featuring Featuring has got it together and is doing just that. Designers on Holiday is an application-based escape, an opportunity to join a bunch of international designers working together to build a campsite that, once complete, will be run as a co-operative.

  2. Main

    All over the world funny and loving music nerds who appreciate whale song, birds tweeting, technology and pizza are crying “Yay! Panda Bear!” The American musician who is currently residing in Portugal has just launched a brand new website, featuring an animated interactive slideshow to accompany the fizzing echoes of the music he makes. Just one tap on your computer keyboard and you can fly through strange, sometimes seizure-inducing audio and visual clips put together by Patakk, Marco Papiro and Danny Perez, with a little help from Seen Studio. Not totally unlike the freaky tunnel boat scene in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, this cunning album promo is a perfect accompaniment to Panda Bear’s well-known and much-loved sound and vibe. You can read a really great interview with Noah Lennox himself over here on Pitchfork.

  3. List

    “Give me more digital gifts!” I always exclaim at Christmas. “Pack my stocking full of new and inventive coding experiments with a festive twist!” This year Ronai David, Damien Mortini and Aurelien Gantier heard my cry and put together Christmas Experiments, a digital advent calendar that reveals a new web-based treat every day throughout December. Each one is the product of a different developer and offers a unique take on Yuletide cheer. In one you’re invited to navigate a wayward orphan through a dormitory, avoiding the flash of fairy lights as you go. In another you’re Santa, tasked with navigating a gang of feckless elves through a complex floating maze where danger lurks around each corner.

  4. List

    In April this year UsTwo ruined a gig I was at by letting me trial a new game due to be released the following week. I was supposed to be seeing one of my favourite bands but instead spent two hours tapping away trying to navigate a little princess through a geometrically impossible world. A couple of weeks later everyone was obsessing over that same princess.

  5. List

    Berlin-based design studio Edenspiekermann has just completed work on an impressive new digital publishing platform called Blloon that offers a subscription service for eBooks in a similar format to Spotify’s music service. The studio was given complete creative freedom to produce the UX and UI of the product as well as the branding itself, giving a beautifully coherent feel to the final result.

  6. List

    Full disclosure before I say anything about this new app: I’m terrible – TERRIBLE – at managing my personal finances. Wages come in at the start of the month, I pay my rent, bills and council tax and then I try not to look at my bank account until the next pay day. Sometimes there’s a couple of quid left, mostly I’ve plundered the depths of my overdraft. So I had a look at Pennies with a great deal of skepticism; it’s going to take more than an app to sort my money out.

  7. List

    The simplest ideas can often be the most powerful, and that’s certainly the case with Eight Inc.’s new work for Cancer Research UK. Tomorrowww is a browser plug-in that removes the word cancer from your online experience, a practical yet potent way of visualising a future when the battle against the disease has been won.

  8. App8

    See Nothing can only really be described as a kind of digital zine, a curation of graphic design experiments, visual puzzles and interactive mind-games for iPad and iPhone which touch on the theme of non-visibility and seeing nothing. The app, created by the Italian graphic design studio Jekyll & Hyde, brings together the work of around 20 different graphic designers and illustrators, whose work for issue 3 of See Nothing centre around the idea of what we see, how we see it, and most importantly what we don’t see. Faceless figures, images that contort with a swipe of your finger, and hypnotic moving pictures are in abundance: this is an app where things are never what they seem.

  9. Main

    There was a great deal of coverage of the 9/11 Memorial Museum when it opened last week, and on the whole the arts and design press focussed on the architectural angle. But museums are (or should be) much more than buildings; and Brooklyn-based interactive design studio Local Projects was tasked with bringing this complex and controversial chapter in contemporary history to life.

  10. List

    Interstate US Studio Public Library have just finished work on an app that we’re very excited about indeed. 5 Every Day is a web and mobile platform that presents a curated selection of five daily events, exhibitions, activities and venues to explore in Los Angeles. All the research is done by the band YACHT, so you know their recommendations will be fun. Each list only lasts for 24 hours and then is completely refreshed, meaning every selection is unique and you won’t ever repeat your day’s activities.

  11. List

    For most of us the world of coding seems wholly impenetrable. We know how to navigate the internet and any number of applications but haven’t the slightest clue how they’re all built. In fact the very notion of building anything digitally seems frankly terrifying. But we’ve got news for you, it doesn’t need to be like that – digital technology is here to stay and it’s probably about time you got to know your front end from your back, your UI from your UX and your HTML5 from your CSS3.

  12. List

    If I’m honest I don’t give two hoots about the gaming industry in general. When I was a kid I lost two years to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64, and I still have dreams about playing it; the characters I met in Hyrule, the tragic death of all the Zoran people and the battles I fought repeatedly until every one of the kingdom’s races were freed from Gannon’s wrath. My sense of nostalgia for that time is palpable. But then I found that no other game offered me the same escapism and abandoned the whole experience for good.

  13. List

    It’s a challenge creative agents are very familiar with; how do you best showcase an eclectic roster of talent in way that celebrates the particular abilities of each while maintaining some measure of coherence across the agency as a whole? Well London-based Visual Artists has given a masterclass in doing just that by way of their brilliant new site designed by Yes Studio. The use of imagery – both still and moving – creates a vibrant, dynamic and enjoyable user experience, the perfect platform to shout about the skills of VA’s portfolio of creative excellence. I really like the pithy communication as well; short sharp bursts of information rather than self-indulgent artists’s statements are the order of the day and keep the overall look and feel very visually-led. Top work all round.