Sept. 11 Museum displays heart-wrenching artifacts

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Sept. 11 Museum displays heart-wrenching artifacts
FILE - This Sept. 10, 2012 file photo shows electronic images of victims of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, destined to be a part of the future 9/11 Memorial Museum, during a news conference in New York. The museum will be dedicated in a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama on Thursday, May 15, 2014. It will open to the public May 21. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Visitors touch the name of a victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks that has been engraved at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Thursday, May 8, 2014 at the World Trade Center in New York. The unidentified remains of those killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are set to be moved Saturday to a repository beneath the memorial. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
FILE - This file photo of June 19, 2011 shows an American Airlines slipper stored in Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The slipper is an artifact from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that is to be part of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which will be dedicated Thursday, May 15, 2014, in a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama. It will open to the public May 21. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
FILE - This June 27, 2013 file photo shows perimeter box columns from the World Trade Center installed in the 9/11 Museum with a view towards the new 1 World Trade Center in New York. Recovered from the WTC site after Sept. 11, 2001, this structural steel called “tridents,” rose from the base of the North Tower. The museum will be dedicated Thursday, May 15, 2014, in a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama. It will open to the public May 21. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
Iliana Flores, left, and her mother Ilia Rodriguez hold photos of Carlos Lillo, Iliana's brother and Ilia's son, as they join other family members of victims of the of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
A law enforcement motorcade arrives for the ceremonial transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Officials acting as pallbearers carry a casket with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks tie black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks wear black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks tie black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Officials acting as pallbearers carry a casket with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Officials acting as pallbearers carry a casket with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Part of the Williamsburg Bridge peeks through thick morning fog as police and fire department vehicles lead a procession along Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
An American flag is draped over a casket of the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Police and fire department vehicles lead a procession along Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Police and fire department vehicles lead a procession through the fog along Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Maureen Santora holds a photo of her son, firefighter Christopher Santora, as she and other family members of victims of the of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks wear black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Rosaleen Tallon, whose son Sean was killed in Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, joins other family members of 9/11 victims to protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
A flag-draped casket can seen atop a fire truck as the motorcade arrives for the ceremonial transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
A flag-draped casket is lifted out of a police vehicle during the ceremonial transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks tie black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Rosaleen Tallon, sister of firefighter Sean Tallon, killed in the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks and other 9-11 victims' family members hold a press conference in front of a fire station opposite the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, Thursday, May 8, 2014. The families oppose the display of their loved ones' remains in the basement of the museum as opposed to on the memorialplaza level. From left are Rosemary Cain, Sally Regenhard, attorney Noman Siegel, Rosaleen Tallon, and retired New York City Fire Chief Jim Riches. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A casket carrying the unidentified remains of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks sits atop a firetruck as the remains are escorted to a repository at Ground Zero in New York, May 10, 2014. Three caskets with remains were moved from the medical examiner's office to a repository built under the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
A casket carrying the unidentified remains of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks is escorted to a repository at Ground Zero in New York, May 10, 2014. The unidentified remains were moved from the medical examiner's office to a repository built under the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) -- New York's new Sept. 11 museum is a monument to how the terror attacks that day shaped history, from its heart-wrenching artifacts to the underground space that houses them amid the remnants of the fallen twin towers' foundations. It also reflects the complexity of crafting a public understanding of the terrorist attacks and reconceiving ground zero.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum was set to be dedicated Thursday and open to the public May 21.

The museum faced financing squabbles and construction challenges. Conflicts over its content underlined the sensitivity of memorializing the dead while honoring survivors and rescuers, of balancing the intimate with the international.

The Keepers of 9/11

Holocaust and war memorials have confronted some of the same questions. But the 9/11 museum exemplifies the work it takes to "develop a museum program amidst this range of powerful feelings and differing individuals and issues that get raised," said Bruce Altshuler, the director of New York University's museum studies program. He isn't involved in the Sept. 11 museum.

The museum harbors both personal possessions and artifacts that became public symbols of survival and loss. There is the battered "survivors' staircase" that hundreds used to escape the burning skyscrapers, the memento-covered last column removed during the ground zero cleanup and the cross-shaped steel beams that became an emblem of remembrance. (An atheists' group has sued, so far unsuccessfully, seeking to stop the display of the cross).

Portraits and profiles describe the nearly 3,000 people killed by the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1993 trade center bombing. Nearly 2,000 oral histories give voice to the memories of survivors, first responders, victims' relatives and others. In one, a mother remembers a birthday dinner at the trade center's Windows on the World restaurant the night before her daughter died at work at the towers.

The museum also looks at the lead-up to Sept. 11 and its legacy.

Members of the museum's interfaith clergy advisory panel raised concerns that it plans to show a documentary film, about al-Qaida, that they said unfairly links Islam and terrorism. The museum has said the documentary is objective and its scholarship solid.

While some Sept. 11 victims' relatives have embraced the museum, others have denounced its $24 general-public ticket price as unseemly and its underground location as disrespectful, particularly because unidentified remains are being stored in a private repository there. Other victims' families see it as a fitting resting place.

The museum and the memorial plaza above it cost a total of $700 million to build. They will cost $60 million a year to run, more than Arlington National Cemetery and more than 15 times as much as the museum that memorializes the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Sept. 11 museum organizers have noted that security alone costs about $10 million a year.

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