C&G Partners has designed a new special exhibition at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. From the pause in play as the nation mourned in the aftermath of the attacks, national sports and its athletes went on to play a significant role in helping the country come together around a unifying message of collective hope and perseverance. 'Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11' explores how sports and athletes helped console a grieving nation, unite the country, and provide a reason to cheer again following the 2001 attacks.
"Our design strategy uses the emotions of sports crowds at various points after 9/11 as the context for the narrative," said Jonathan Alger, managing partner who oversaw the project for C&G Partners. "It's an effective way to frame the story arc, using design gestures to take visitors back to those key moments in stadiums to portray the changing emotions of a whole nation. By making visitors feel as if they are actually in those crowds, they experience the profound transition from uncertainty and grief to hope that swept the country over the weeks and months once sports leagues resumed play and brought us together."
C&G Partners was tasked with the exhibit design, graphic design, and sound and media production for the exhibition, working with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum's own project team. All techniques used to communicate the exhibition narrative are designed to echo actual sports experiences.
The exhibit is designed as a chronological account of what happened in sports on the national scale after the events of 9/11. It begins in the moments after the attacks, when all national sports in the US were suspended and stadiums in the New York metro area were used instead to support the relief effort.
The exhibition uses huge images of crowds at stadiums as play resumed, along with custom documentary films depicting the emotions of fans during this transition period, to make visitors feel as if they are actually at the depicted events. This enables them to relive and experience the tentative return of games that helped heal the country.
C&G Partners divided "Comeback Season" into nine sections, with additional stations dedicated to stories of victims and their families. Each of the nine sections includes dramatically large images, objects from the museum's collection or on loan and poignant quotes. They also host custom-made short documentaries drawn from oral histories, combined with powerful excerpts from media of the time.
The nine sections, titled after sports references, depict the following scenes:
Timeout: The time of shock and disbelief after the attacks, with sporting events cancelled and the nation's new priorities deeming sports as unimportant in the immediate aftermath of this terrible event.
Sports on the Sidelines: Immediately after the attacks, New York area sports venues and stadiums were used as recovery and supply sites, and a prayer ceremony was held at Yankee Stadium.
Swinging Back into Action: The New York Mets face the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium in New York's first major sporting event after 9/11. The game includes many commemorative acts, such as Mets' players wearing NYPD and FDNY caps instead of team caps to acknowledge the efforts of first responders.
More Than a Game: Focused on ice hockey, and how the ensuing games served as an outlet for families to commemorate the victims of 9/11.
Rivalries Dissolve: Devoted to football, and how feelings of unity which swept the country were also on display between teams.
One Team: A look at NASCAR, highlighting one of the biggest post-9/11 sporting events which drew an enormous crowd and put national pride on display.
Home Field: President George W. Bush threw a perfect ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium at the 2001 World Series between the Yankee and Arizona Diamondbacks. While the Yankees ultimately lost the series, they had some heroic come-from-behind victories, and those highs effectively lifted the city back up.
Field of Honor: The story arc of recovery and hope continues into 2002 with the special commemorations at the Super Bowl XXXVI and Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah in February.
A Marathon, Not a Sprint: The exhibition ends on a high note with the 2001 New York City Marathon, a celebratory demonstration of the city's resilience and diversity with 30,000 runners and 2,000,000 spectators.
Stories of the bonds between famous athletes, first responders and the families of 9/11 victims are detailed throughout the emotional story arc. The exhibit includes four secondary stories about how sports and athletes honored 9/11 victims and served as a source of consolation for their families.
C&G Partners paid close attention to arrangement of visual, spatial and material elements of the environment, creating a composition that visitors can easily navigate while maintaining the sequential flow of the exhibition.
Photography: C&G Partners