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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

September 11: Teaching Contemporary History




National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution


Learning Times




The September 11: Teaching Contemporary History website represents an unprecedented collaborative partnership led by the National Museum of American History (NMAH) staff in conjunction with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Flight 93 National Memorial, and Pentagon Memorial Fund.  The site now holds lessons, timelines, links to discussion groups, and archived webinars from the online conference held by the four partner sites on August 3 and 4, 2011.

The purpose of the online conference and its related website is to:

  • Function as a “one-stop-shop” for authoritative September 11 online resources and;
  • Provide K-12 teachers with the confidence, skills, and resources needed to teach about the events of September 11, 2001. 


The goals for the conference, its website and discussion forums were to enable participants (primarily K-12 educators) to:

  • Gain awareness of and access to reliable materials about September 11
  • Learn teaching strategies for addressing complex historical issues and challenging topics
  • Better appreciate that our understanding of the past differs based on our participation in events, the amount of time that elapses between the present and the recent past, and the issues of our own historical moment





Between August 1 and September 13, 2011, the conference site was viewed by 11,603 unique visitors from 57 countries or territories, including 2,000 visitors who viewed the archived conference sessions.  Since September 13, 2011, the website has seen over 15,000 visits.





As coordinator of the website and conference, NMAH educators were certain to provide immediately relevant resources and an open forum for audience members to engage with experts and each other about teaching a difficult topic.  The webinar’s eight panels and discussions brought voices together from the academic community who are invested in promoting well-rounded knowledge related to the tragedies of September 11.  These sessions introduced teachers to the resources of the partner sites on how to examine the topic through memorials and museum objects. 



Audience members actively participated in chatrooms contiguous with the programming.  Follow-up discussions were also hosted by the NMAH’s existing partnership with Verizon Thinkfinity group page, testifying to the effectiveness of the community created as a result of the website and webinar.  Topics of discussion included sharing of teaching resources, important themes to consider in September 11 lesson plans, creative uses of technology like GoogleEarth to map the events of September 11, and many more.  Since their creation, discussion threads in the group have generated more than 18,000 views. 




A follow-up survey was administered to registered webinar participants.  It showed that on average, 95% of session participants were satisfied with the session’s content. Quotations pulled from the survey’s qualitative portion include:

“The dialogue was great. I also enjoyed the visuals as I had not seen the memorials side by side before.”

“I expected to gain insight on how to teach 9/11, but what I got was so much more. I wasn't aware of all of the resources available and viewing the memorials and the plans for the museum were very emotional. There is so much out there, that it's actually becoming overwhelming. I think the coordination between all parties involved was sensational. Thank you.” -Webinar participant quote from evaluation survey

 “The conference allowed me to not only find resources for many grade levels but depended my understanding and other tie in topics to explain this to the children. We can look at it historically, aftermath, artistically, and religiously. The on line chats were also a great way to get other opinions/ideas and connect with other resources.”

“I was only going to attend 6 sessions but ended up at all 8 and it flowed so smoothly - time flew - albeit sometimes too emotional - a very tough subject covered very carefully and well. My school has already purchased two of the picture books recommended and I will lead an explanation to the faculty with my notes and Smartboard upon our return to school. I feel very confident in teaching this topic now and sharing with others.”

“Teacher professional development is often viewed as "busy work" by the teachers themselves because they don't see much value in many of the in service activities. This type of webinar could completely change professional development. It was interesting, engaging and can be done easily from home.  Loved it.”


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