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Caveat: This isn’t your typical “art exhibit.” The Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL) is a nonprofit institution, which opened in 2008 and aims to prevent terrorism by educating, empowering, and engaging the public through an exhibit, speaker series, and more.
Earlier this month, CELL—with the help of counterterrorism experts and Academy and Emmy Award-winning artists—revamped its interactive, multimedia-heavy exhibit with 17 sections that highlight terrorism awareness and prevention. To its credit, though heavy in content and topic, the CELL is brightly lit and skillful in its approach. Some of the new exhibit’s highlights:
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— In the lobby stands a hunk of World Trade Center steel from 9/11, which was delivered to the CELL on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack. Painted in white on the side of the bent and partially melted frame is the designation “S6,” which experts believe means the artifact came from the sixth floor of the south tower.
— A glassed-in collection of tools used by terrorists lines a wall. Included: a suicide vest, machete, mobile phone, and rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
— Between exhibit sections is a dark room with wall-size video screens that simulate a terrorist attack. One minute you’re seeing people walking aimlessly along the 16th Street Mall. The next, video and quotes from the aftermath of real terrorist attacks surround you as sirens wail.
— In the final room, among many interactive stations is a wall of screens that display propaganda videos. Visitors can choose between hostage videos, children’s shows, video games, and more.
— The last stop on the tour includes a video overview about recognizing the eight signs of terrorism, which include surveillance, elicitation, and acquiring supplies—as well as various hands-on sections that allow visitors to answer questions and see how terrorism develops from idea to deployment.
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