For the first time in nearly 13 years, the private messages, photographs and other memorabilia belonging to families who lost loved ones on 9/11 will be put on public display at the New York State Museum in Albany.

The exhibition features a recreation of the Family Room, a small space located on the 20th floor of One Liberty Plaza that was dedicated the family members of 9/11 victims, many of whom were searching for a private place to grieve and commemorate those they'd lost. The space was donated by Brookfield Office Properties in the spring of 2002, giving families the chance to personalize the national tragedy.

"What tower? What floor? That was the way other people saw our loved ones,” Nikki Stern, who lost her husband, James E. Potorti, told the Times. “It was adamantly not how we wanted to define our loved ones. The Family Room was the beginning of the storytelling that was controlled by the families.”

When National September 11 Memorial Museum opened, a new Family Room was set up, and the remaining items, letters and photos were transferred to the State Museum. Family members will be able to reclaim their mementos over the next two years, or they can choose to donate them upstate.

Not that it doesn't feel somewhat voyeuristic to view personal messages and photographs that were meant to be private expressions of mourning. "The opening to public scrutiny of those messages, remembrances, images and ephemera that were intended to be private and personal was indeed a very difficult decision made by family members,” Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother, John Katsimatides, told the Times. But family members say this is the story they want told. "The world needed to see what happened to us," Lee Ielipi, who lost his son Jonathan, told NY1. "And I don't mean New York. What happened to the people who were affected by 9/11."

The Family Room opens at the State Museum today, but you can get a glimpse of it via a virtual tour on the museum's website; you can also read family members' reflections on the room.