9/11 Memorial & Museum names Clifford Chanin as its new director


The 9/11 Memorial & Museum has appointed Clifford Chanin the new museum director.

Chanin has been a part of the museum since its initial planning in 2005 and has served in a variety of roles there, culminating most recently in his position as executive vice president and deputy director for museum programs. His appointment follows the hiring in August of the museum’s current president and CEO, Elizabeth Hillman, who came to the museum from Mills College.

Prior to his work at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Chanin worked for a decade as associate director of arts and humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, focusing especially on development in the Muslim world. He is the founder of the Legacy Project, a nonprofit organization that documents how societies approach histories of conflict and mass violence.

For the museum, he has curated numerous exhibitions, including “Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden,” which served as the basis for a book and a History Channel documentary.

Andrew Senchak, co-chair of the museum’s education and external affairs committee, called Chanin’s appointment “the natural decision” in a press statement announcing it on Wednesday.

“His mastery of the complex history of 9/11 and dedication to this institution is unparalleled,” Senchak said, specifically citing the museum’s growth as an educational partner for law and other government agencies.

Chanin said that as someone who’d been with the museum since its inception, “I’ve seen the obvious growth that everybody has recognized, and certainly have been involved in meeting the growing demands of audiences from around the city, around the country and around the world.”

Meeting demands not envisioned from the institution’s start, he said, has been a source of consistent illumination.

“It’s really been remarkable to see what it is that people turn to us for,” Chanin said. “Of course, you have people coming to commemorate the event itself, and the victims, to learn more about it.”

But, he added, demonstrating how an institution can convey “difficult history” has become a core mission that extends beyond the museum’s walls.

“We have become, for example, a global point of reference for communities around the world that are trying to memorialize a traumatic event in their own histories,” Chanin said.

The trauma of the 9/11 attacks in Lower Manhattan is something Chanin, a native New Yorker, experienced personally.

“I lived in Brooklyn before it was Brooklyn,” he said.

On the day of the attacks, Chanin was at home, in Downtown Brooklyn.

“I remember very vividly on that day the sense that our city, my home, was very deliberately targeted,” he said.

He recounted meeting his children on the street after they were dismissed from school.

“The wind, you’ll remember, was blowing over towards Brooklyn that day, and I saw my kids emerging from this cloud of smoke as they were coming towards me,” he said. “That’s something that really marked my day, because I knew it would be not just in my life, but that it would mark their lives as well.”

Increasingly, however, Chanin acknowledged, the museum serves not only as a point of commemoration for those who remember the attacks, including the families of the victims, but also as a source of education and illumination for those too young to remember. Last year, a digital education and outreach program tied to the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was viewed by 1 million students, with thousands participating in a live chat afterward.

Continuing the museum’s recovery from pandemic closure is an ongoing concern, Chanin said, though digital outreach programs helped to maintain and expand audience engagement while doors were closed. He will oversee an expansion of the museum’s exhibition spaces and offerings, building toward the 25th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2026.

Underlying all of his undertakings, Chanin said, is his dedication to the museum and its rich, complex mission.

“The most remarkable part of my experience over these years is if you just pay attention to what people bring to their experience of the museum, to their experience of our programs – if you just pay attention to that, you learn extraordinary things,” he said. “You learn just how broad this story is. It’s obviously rooted in a tragedy, but in fact, it encompasses all of human experience. If you come to this museum, or if you engage in our programs, by and large you are going to be enlarged and enriched in ways that you didn’t necessarily anticipate.”


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