September 11 Memorial & Museum Exhibit Is A Horrific Crime Story.
Design motifs of redaction, declassification, surveillance, and crime scene investigation are central visual components of Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden, a current exhibition designed by multi-specialty creative studio C&G Partners at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York featuring an array of never-before-seen FBI and CIA documentation about the decade-long pursuit. The exhibit is open through May 2020.
Exhibition design places visitors in raw terrain evocative of the forensic investigation and the operation leading to the capture of bin Laden. The studio uses geometric plywood forms modeled after combat-ready, field assembled encampments to double as media and artifact display cases and tells the story through the use of compelling artifacts, images, wall projections, architectural models, maps, and audio-visual footage.
The 2,900 square-foot, chronological exhibition with over 60 artifacts is divided into six sections: Before 9/11; First Boots on the Ground; Means + Methods; The Courier; The Leads, The Debate, The Raid; and Ongoing Impacts.
It opens by highlighting terrorist attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the USS Cole, and 9/11 through large-scale newsprint style murals of the bombings, introductory wall projection, overview boards, images, and an architectural model case of pre-9/11 Tarnak Farms, the former Afghan training camp near Kandahar that served as a base to bin Laden and his followers from 1998 to 2001.
The narrative reaches its climax in the room titled The Leads, The Debate, The Raid, depicting the scene where bin Laden was hiding and captured. Black walls provide a sense of the darkness of the night when the raid occurred. The scale model of the Abbottabad compound used by the actual SEAL team sits at one end of the room, and a top-down projection shows how the raid was carried out.
Among the moving artifacts in the section are handcuffs used to detain suspected al-Qaeda members overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, whose March 2002 capture was considered a breakthrough. The handcuffs belonged to Port Authority Police Officer Donald James McIntyre who was killed in the 9/11 attacks.
C&G Partners created the narrative as a crime story, albeit a horrific one at a huge scale. Like a police procedural, it is a story of driven professionals who unite to pursue clues and seek justice. As exhibition designers, the studio uses physical space as a storytelling medium, creating a sense of place, time, and plot to amplify the museum experience. To do this, the design borrows visual techniques from a range of sources.
The exhibit is built of tall angled “shards” of raw plywood, no two alike, which can be assembled to evoke a mountain canyon, military field office or residential compound. The shards hold objects, media, and text.
Evidence markers from a crime scene investigation inform the color and typography of the show, while the idea of declassified information inspires the use of redaction as a graphic motif throughout the exhibition.
Lastly, the show’s strong media presence comes in surprising shapes and forms as well: media you can look down at, projections near architectural scale-models, and panoramas of forbidding mountain ranges. A top-down projection foregrounds a key exhibition artifact: a scale-model used to plan the raid that brought bin Laden to justice.
Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden is the second special exhibition designed by C&G Partners for the Museum. In addition, the studio created permanent wayfinding signs, directional kiosks, and site maps for the Memorial and Memorial Museum when they opened in 2011 and 2014, respectively.
In addition to C&G Partners, credits for media design and production go to batwin+robin productions.