On a recent afternoon, an older man and woman self-consciously configured themselves in front of the south reflecting pool at the 9/11 Memorial. The man placed his hand on the woman’s hip in an awkward clasp and grinned broadly as another person took their picture with a digital camera. A girl in a Yankees cap took a selfie with her camera phone, the Freedom Tower soaring into the sky behind her, the reflecting pool draining into nothingness. She was smiling. An Ethiopian man asked me to take a photo of him and his family. They wore blank expressions, though the youngest girl with them hammed for the camera with her [...]
One of the exhibits at the Memorial and Museum at Auschwitz Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, is a room of human hair. The room has an odd purplish tint to it, cast by the climate- and light-control systems that slow the hair's decay. A display case holds two tons of human hair from an estimated forty thousand people. “Please do not photograph the room of hair,” Pawel Sawicki, a press officer of the museum and my group’s guide, told us. “We don’t know exactly when it will all turn to dust."
Photographing the hair might hasten its disintegration. But also, the museum balks at letting patrons take pictures of human [...]