9/11 exhibit remembers
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A dedication of the sculpture “Common Thread” was the highlight of events held at Lied Library last Friday, where UNLV students and faculty gathered to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The event, sponsored by UNLV Office of the President and UNLV Libraries, dedicated the public piece of art, which was created to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks.
Artist and UNLV Alumni Association Chair for the College of Fine Arts Troy Gillett submitted a proposal to the University Libraries and was chosen to design the piece that will remain on display in Lied Library for the next six months.
Gillett’s creation and the centerpiece of the exhibit was made using uessssover 5,000 T-shirts that had been left at the base of the Statue of Liberty at New York New York Hotel and Casino following the 9/11 attacks.
Peter Michel, director of special collections at UNLV, said that the library was able to use the collection of shirts to document and tell the story as a part of the history of Las Vegas.
“This was interesting because they were physical objects,” Michel said. “These T-shirts were like a physical memory of this tragic event.”
He also stated that the display was a way to make the events of Sept. 11 relevant to 2011 and Las Vegas as a city.
“For some people, this was the closest they will ever get to Ground Zero,” Michel said. “Laying the shirts at the feet of the Statue of Liberty at New York New York Hotel — that happened in Las Vegas.”
Michel stated that the sculpture represented a mixture of memories and histories from two different cities.
“How we use history to interpret the past … helps us understand the future,” Michel said. “This exhibit documents how people in Las Vegas responded to 9/11 and how people perceive Las Vegas as somehow representing New York.”
UNLV Director of Gaming Research David Schwartz said that New York New York Casino wanted to preserve the shirts, so they turned to UNLV’s Special Collections.
“Instead of just letting them sit there in the sun and deteriorate, they wanted the shirts to be housed somewhere and that’s where UNLV stepped in,” Schwartz said. “We designed a system, trained a student how to catalog the shirts and then supervised her cataloging all 5,244 shirts.”
The exhibit accompanying the “Common Thread” sculpture includes visual kiosks displaying images and items related to the families directly affected by the events of Sept. 11.
“This is supposed to be a kind of continuation of the outpouring of love that took place in Las Vegas in front of the New York New York Casino after 9/11,” said Patricia Ianuzzi, dean of libraries at UNLV. “We want to continue that spirit by having a place to capture comments.”
Iannuzzi also said that using the T-shirts to create a tribute to the victims of Sept. 11 was an interesting project for the library.
“After 9/11, the tribute evolved almost organically at New York New York [Hotel & Casino],” she said. “There was a spontaneous outflow of emotion that took place at the casino.”
UNLV President Neal Smatresk, who attended the event, said he was moved by the event and the meaning behind it.
“We always want to remember when something this tragic occurs,” he said. “We want to be prepared not to have it happen again, but we also want to understand how it changed us as a country.”
Smatresk stated that the piece of art resembled a double-helix, representing life.
“I love the piece,” Smatresk said. “This isn’t just shirts or the twin towers. It’s an icon of life along with a symbol of the loss of life.”
Smatresk also said that memorial services of this type are very important.
“There’s a basic human need to have a sense of community on a day like today,” he said. “This is a perfect opportunity for our community to reflect and gather and process how 9-11 impacted us and what we are going to do moving forward.”
Contact Kendle Walters at email@example.com.