The primary function of keys and the locks they fit has been insurance against theft of property, invasion of privacy, and intrusion into spaces exclusive to key holders. Most keys are made of durable metal, and they were ubiquitous within the World Trade Center. Keys were used for accessing tenant offices and the desks, filing cabinets, and vaults within them as well as authorized key-controlled elevators, security systems, and other back-office building functions.
The many keys represented in the Museum’s collection include office keys carried out of the building on 9/11 in the pockets and purses of evacuees; plastic electronic cards issued to guests at the World Trade Center New York Marriott hotel; keys recovered from the wreckage at Ground Zero, some in pristine condition and others distorted and dusty. Also donated to the collection are WTC keys kept by employees who worked in the towers before 2001, some discovered in drawers at home, others retained as workplace mementos.