The emotion of the crowd was the inspiration C&G Partners (New York) drew on to design “Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11,” a new special exhibition at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which opened on June 27. 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.
C&G Partners was tasked with the exhibit design, graphic design, and sound and media production for “Comeback Season,” 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.
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 include 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.
“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.”