Atlanta Confronts Sept. 11
LeeAnn Lands, Kennesaw State University

Overview: In this project, students are asked to reflect on the September 11th tragedy as it was experienced by a community hundreds of miles away (Atlanta), and then design an exhibit that would accurately reflect the myriad reactions and experiences of Atlanta and its people as the event unfolded. This study asks students to move beyond the traditional museum (and textbook!) depictions of historical events (using artifacts and text-based interpretation) to examine how we can use images, audio, and design to convey a particular mood or emotional experience. (This lesson can be extended, then, to have students look at how people or organizations may use these methods to manipulate reactions to certain events.) With this project the students make use of what they’ve already learned regarding how historians, writers, artists, museologists, and others attempt to establish both a mood and a sense of place; it asks them to help establish a mood and a sense of place. This study may be adapted to address any region and/or life-changing regional or national event.

Materials: Pen and paper or computer time.

Time: Approximately 1 hour.

Instructional Sequence:

  1. Explain that we want to design a museum or internet-based exhibit depicting Atlanta’s reaction to September 11th. (If you choose to do a museum exhibit, you may want to point out that "we have a room about this size to work with.") We want to use such an exhibit not just to convey information, but also to suggest the mood of the city and the community.
  2. Designate one or two students to be recorders of the class discussion and the exhibit design as it is fleshed out.
  3. Ask students to discuss (for about 10 minutes) what they and their families did on September 11th, and how their day unfolded. What questions were they asking? How were they feeling? Extend this beyond the family unit. What did it look like other people were doing? Were people continuing to go to work? Were the interstates still filled with traffic? Were people gathered together? Perhaps at church? Or in front of televisions? Were they trying to call relatives in New York?
  4. Now move on to discuss the exhibit itself. What type of images would we use that would accurately depict the day as we experienced it? It may help to suggest various materials, such as TV or radio news, recordings of people on the street, photographs of the city that day.
  5. Then consider how such material could be arranged to properly reflect "mood." If students indicate feeling overwhelmed, perhaps images and sounds could be arranged to suggest a barrage of images or information, or a cacophony of sounds. If students felt empty, discuss how one might arrange materials to suggest a "hollow" ambience.
  6. If you have time, you may wish to discuss with students why we would want to convey historical events in such a manner.

Evaluation: This assignment does not require formal evaluation.


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