5 Things to Know About the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (VIDEO)

The National September 11 Memorial Museum

Justin Lane-Pool/Getty

updated 05/15/2014 AT 4:15 PM ET

originally published 05/15/2014 AT 2:15 PM ET

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The National September 11 Memorial & Museum opens to the public May 21, preceded by a ceremony Thursday with President Barack Obama, families and officials. Here are five things to know about the museum:

1. Its Mission

The exhibits tell the stories of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 2001 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as well as those of survivors and first responders. Museum Director Alice Greenwald said the museum is “about understanding our shared humanity,” while former mayor Michael Bloomberg called it a reminder “that freedom is not free.”

The National September 11 Memorial Museum

Justin Lane-Pool/Getty

2. The Museum’s Size

The museum occupies 110,000 square feet on the 16-acre trade center site, tracing the foundations of the Twin Towers 70 feet underground.

3. Construction and Foundation

Below the Sept. 11 memorial plaza, with its two fountains outlining the footprints of the towers, the museum reaches down to bedrock, where the towers’ steel columns were anchored. It’s bounded by a slurry wall that kept back the Hudson River after the attack.

4. Costs

The plaza and museum together cost $700 million to build, subsidized with $390 million in tax-funded grants; officials hope the $24 museum entrance fee, expected to generate about $40 million a year, will help cover operating costs, expected to be about $60 million a year. Fundraising will cover the rest for now.

5. Special Artifacts

The museum contain more than 10,000 artifacts, 23,000 still images and 500 hours of video and film, plus 1,970 oral histories. Among the artifacts displayed are many personal items including picture ID cards of the employees working in the Twin Towers.

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