It feels weird, but it's still totally unsurprising. The battle of Shiloh in the Civil War had more casualties, and there's a gift shop there. I remember reading about someone famous or infamous who was shot in public or semi-public (Lincoln? Dillinger? Getting old is hell, kids) , and lookie-loos were dipping their handkerchiefs in spilled blood as souvenirs.
I thought this was going to be a big platter full of cheese, stacked up to look like the World Trade Center buildings or the pentagon or something, and served in the 9/11 museum cafeteria.
That's a very old tradition, headsmen were selling trinkets like that to execution fans in the 10th century if not earlier. A rich lady or gentleman might pay a guinea to have the executioner put a handkerchief in his boot or sleeve, and deliver it later with the victim's blood still wet on it.
Re: icky gift shop behavior: the National Constitutional Center sells crap made out of the US.
How can these institutions miss the obvious: partner with local shops that only employ locals (or better depending on the nature of the museum, local disabled vets) to sell craft-made commemorations or souvenirs.
A simple flag hand-sewn by a local NYer or the Preamble to the Constitution done in craft letterpress by a disabled veteran would be appropriate, sentimental, unique, and give back to the local community.
And probably go for a higher margin.
I don't think I would be able to take a bite out of that without first saying "here comes the air plane..."
Yeah, but at least nowadays you're less likely to offend someone whose immediate family member died there.
I'm reminded of a chapter in Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot called "God Will Give You Blood To Drink in a Souvenir Shot Glass". Vowell described some of the horribly kitcshy crap sold in Salem, Massachusetts to commemorate how mass hysteria claimed the lives of a number of innocent men, women and children. What should rightfully be remembered as a horrible cautionary tale has become a tourist attraction, and events that should elicit a sense of collective shame are a point of local pride. But at least they waited more than 13 years before they started selling T-shirts with cartoon witches on them.
Tastefulness aside, tragedies do have an expiration date. The Hindenburg is a meme, Chernobyl a video game, and the Titanic became a blockbuster movie and broadway musical.
I fully expect our grandkids to have salt & pepper shakers of the two towers without a single concept of why such a thing is significant or tasteless. Because a cast of fourty belting "How did they build Titanic" certainly seemed OK to me.
The museum gift shop is not as disturbing as the TSA checkpoint you go through just to see the memorial.
I wonder if the intentionality (or lack thereof) of a tragedy affects that. Hindenburg, Chernobyl, and Titanic were all accidents. There's certainly room to be furious at the people who made the mistakes (especially with Chernobyl), but they don't have that feeling of "let this be a reminder to remain vigilant against our enemies" feel that 9/11 does. People like a good solid Other to focus their anger against. It's much harder to stay angry at the spectre of lax safety standards.
Hmm. Well, Pearl Harbor is a blockbuster movie, too. But then, we beat the Japanese soundly. Maybe it's socially acceptable to relax our vigilance once the foe has been thoroughly defeated?
The gift shop at the Space and Rocket Center in HSV used to sell a Space Shuttle Ash Tray. They pulled that and others like them quickly; you still them on ebay.
I think people get angry at the callousness of monetizing a tragedy while it still affects the memory of the living. Who or what killed someone they love isn't the concern; it's the fact that vendors care so little and are willing to make a profit despite the unhappiness they cause. I think tragedies last a generation, maybe two, and once the emotions have expired this cheese plate will be upgraded from tasteless to kitschy.
Was that before or after two space shuttles were converted into actual ash?
They sold them before; and I remember a pewter generic shuttle ashtray after. But all ashtrays and cigarette lighters disappeared within a year or so of Challenger. An ebay search might turn up dates of production.
At least they had the good taste to make sure as few people as possible would go to see the Pearl Harbor movie...
It had a gift shop 13 years later?
Surprisingly not too soon.
Do they sell these?
I think "gift shop" isn't really an appropriate name. I can't think of something else better at this moment, but the name conjures up resin bald eagles crying and statues of Native Americans, or refrigerator magnets and post cards with double entendres.
However the concept of selling stuff at a museum like this or say Auschwitz I think is appropriate. Things like tasteful commemorative items, artwork, and books and videos telling more about the subject is completely appropriate. Chochkies, like the cheese plate are - well - cheesy.
Dillinger, they dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood in front of the Biograph Theatre. Except it wasn't him it was John Wilkes Booth, or something...
Ugh, I'm still more upset about that crapfest than a 9/11 cheese plate