Cataclysm and Challenge:
Impact of September 11, 2001, on Our Nation's Cultural Heritage

Click here to download the report as a PDF.

book coverCataclysm and Challenge is a 26-page report offering the first comprehensive study of the loss of cultural and historic resources resulting from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The report features findings from a survey of 122 museums, libraries, archives and other collecting institutions in Lower Manhattan.

Based on survey findings and extensive follow-up interviews conducted by Heritage Preservation, Cataclysm and Challenge offers specific recommendations concerning emergency planning for collecting institutions. The report also describes the diverse cultural heritage universe that existed in and around the World Trade Center before the attacks of 9/11. It provides an overview of the artwork, historic buildings and artifacts, archives and libraries that were destroyed or damaged, as well as the condition of those that survived.

Selected highlights in the study illustrate how individual institutions coped with the aftermath of the disaster – ranging from the Seamen’s Church Institute’s role as a refuge for rescue workers to the historic fireboats that pumped water to combat the blaze. A special section is devoted to the destruction of cultural property at the Pentagon, which includes historical documents dating back to the early 19th century and art collections of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. 

News media nationwide covered this survey report, including an Associated Press article that appeared in major newspapers and on Web sites such as ABC Radio and the NPR program "Here and Now" covered the story, as did "The Osgood Files" for a story that ran on CBS Radio News. The report was also featured in he documentary "Relics from the Rubble," which ran on the History Channel in September 2002.

Copies of Cataclysm and Challenge were mailed to a broad audience, including major conservation donors and key government officials in Washington and New York. Its findings have been discussed at meetings sponsored by the American Association of Museums, International Foundation for Art Research, Library of Congress, and National Park Service, among others.

The survey was supported by the Bay Foundation in New York City and the National Endowment for the Humanities.