Why The 9/11 Museum's Yelp Page Feels Weird, But Should Stay Anyway
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero opened Wednesday. While some have praised the museum's thought-provoking collections, the addition of its gift shop has already caused outrage. So it's fair to say that the museum's reviews have been mixed — but would you want to write and read those reviews on a 9/11 Museum's Yelp page? Maybe not. But here's why it could be important, anyway.
Yes, a tribute to those who lost their lives is beautiful and necessary, but there's something troubling about having the experience be rateable, publishable, and shareable. It feels wrong and upsetting that mourning the 9/11 attacks can be turned into a bulletpoint list — that someone can take the same tone describing the museum that they can about that new burger joint down the road. And there's something incredibly disconcerting in the idea of going online to dissect the experience — "the lines were long, security was hard, that one timeline was a little overwrought."
Having said that, the issues with the museum's Yelp page are less about the Yelp page itself and more about the fact that the museum is commodifying a tragedy in some ways. And that should make us uncomfortable. Selling a 9/11 umbrella in the museum gift shop; charging $24 for entrance, opening a Danny Meyers — these things should go against the grain.
But seeing as the museum exists — seeing as it is a place you can have unfriendly guards and long queues and lunch at a restaurant — maybe having the opportunity to express your dissatisfaction is OK. We live in an age of user feedback, after all, and the 9/11 Museum is far from the first to have a Yelp page — the Holocaust Museum does, as does the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.
The 9/11 Museum's Yelp page can be more than just a product of our review-obsessed culture, though. For all of those who go and who find the memorial a moving and beautiful place to be, who might "understand humanity in a deeper way", perhaps Yelp can be more than rating system — perhaps it can be a place where people can relive the experience online, and tell others why they need to go too.
Going to Ground Zero can be a deeply painful and isolating ordeal; sites that commemorate tragedy often are. Maybe, then, the Museum's Yelp page can do what the internet does best: create an anonymous community where people can feel less alone. Which — for those reliving one of the most terrifying and crushing tragedies in modern American history — might be really important.