By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — The 9/11 museum at Ground Zero is invisible from the street, but deep underground, the exhibit halls are taking shape.
“It’s very hard for people on the street to understand the tremendous amount of progress in building the memorial and museum,” said Alice Greenwald, the museum’s director.
“You can’t see it. But in fact, the museum is very much under construction.”
Two major artifacts are already in their final resting place: the 37-foot-tall, memento-draped “Last Column” and the crumbling Survivors' Staircase from the original World Trade Center plaza, which led many people to safety on 9/11.
Other large artifacts will begin arriving this fall. The museum is scheduled to open in September 2012, one year after the memorial above.
Greenwald said the most powerful moment in the construction came when she first walked the long ramp visitors will use to descend to the exhibition hall at bedrock.
There is a moment when the ramp reaches the first overlook, and visitors will see down into the cavernous space filled with artifacts, with a piece of the original slurry wall rising behind them.
“For a long time, we looked at renderings,” Greenwald said. “But the renderings never fully captured it. We expected it to be powerful. We didn’t know how powerful.”