The 9/11 Memorial has banned soap, gum chewing, and a lot of other things

No “expressive activity” that might draw onlookers, please.
No “expressive activity” that might draw onlookers, please.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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At the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, you can buy a September 11 cheese plate that marks the attack sites with hearts, but you can’t ask questions without first getting permission. That’s what Jen Chung, the editor of the New York–based news site Gothamist, found out on Wednesday, the day the museum opened to the public.

When Chung attempted to interview a visitor, two guards reprimanded her before a third escorted her from the building. She had violated a museum rule that “credentialed members of the news media must receive prior written authorization from, and make advance arrangements with, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s Communications & Digital Media Department prior to their arrival.” (The museum’s VP of communications had apparently ignored Chung’s earlier requests for press access.)

As it turns out, the 9/11 Memorial has a lot of rules. You can read the full list here.

It bans the things you might expect—like weapons and bull horns. But the regulations also prohibit soap bubbles, alkali metals, gum chewing (in parts of the site), sleeping, and pretty much anything else the 9/11 Memorial’s management wants. That includes “engaging in expressive activity that has the effect, intent or propensity to draw a crowd of on-lookers”—but apparently not black-tie cocktail receptions like the one attended by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday night, which drew criticism from some family members of those killed in the attacks.

The private foundation that runs the memorial says its rules are in place “to provide the entire visiting public with respect, and an equal opportunity to have an enriching and meaningful experience.” Other somber monuments around the world lay out basic guidelines for visitors—Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe has rules against skateboarding and yelling, while the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum makes clear that it is a place of “quiet reflection.” But the 9/11 memorial’s rules stand out for their breadth and strictness.

The architecture critic Philip Nobel, who wrote a book about the messy redevelopment of Ground Zero, noted on Twitter yesterday that the rules greet anyone passing by the site, as many thousands do every day on their way to work.