Memorial Artifacts from Maine’s Deadliest Mass Shooting to be Preserved at Museum

by Joshua Brown
Memorial Preservation

In a solemn act of transition and remembrance, volunteers and city workers diligently gathered mementos, handwritten signs, cards, bouquets, and various tributes that had accumulated at the sites of Maine’s deadliest mass shooting. This endeavor signifies not only the change in seasons but also a new chapter in the region’s healing process.

The collection of these heartfelt artifacts, numbering over a thousand, is a crucial step in preserving the memory of the tragic events that occurred on October 25, when 18 lives were lost, and 13 individuals were injured. These items will now undergo meticulous archival and cataloging processes in preparation for their exhibition at a museum located in Lewiston.

The need for this undertaking is partly practical; the onset of snowfall makes it imperative to remove these memorials before they are either weathered away by the elements or inadvertently cleared by plows. However, the organizers emphasize that this action is timely, as the affected communities continue to come to terms with their grief and healing.

Rachel Ferrante, the executive director of the Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning, and Labor, expressed the importance of preserving the collective memory: “We want to make sure the community doesn’t forget what happened and how the community came together. So bringing the items together feels like the next stage.”

The memorials encompassed both heartbreaking and heartwarming elements. They included small sculptures depicting the American Sign Language symbol for “love,” paying tribute to four members of the local deaf community who tragically lost their lives. Additionally, there were numerous signs, notes, hearts, and votive candles from vigils. Some items stood out as more unconventional, such as a bowling ball, darts, and a miniature cornhole set – poignant reminders of the locations where the victims were shot, a bowling alley and a bar hosting a cornhole tournament.

One particularly significant item among the memorials was a stuffed moose, now waterlogged from exposure to snow and rain.

The shootings occurred just days before Halloween, and the removal of these items, following the season’s first snowfall, appears to symbolize a shift in the seasons and a desire to move forward.

A dedicated team of over 20 museum workers, volunteers, and city employees worked diligently to retrieve the memorials from three different sites: the bowling alley, the bar where the shootings occurred, and a busy street corner that had transformed into an impromptu memorial site.

Tanja Hollander, a local artist involved in the project, stressed the importance of preserving these items: “We really wanted to save them before they were buried in more snow. And it’s important to the community to do that. To make sure that there’s some remembrance of this tragic event.”

The impact of the killings was profound, as virtually everyone in the immediate area had a connection to a victim or knew someone who did. The attacks were terrifying, prompting residents to seek shelter in their homes during the extensive manhunt for the perpetrator, who ultimately took his own life.

Subsequently, there were funerals held over the course of several weeks.

The cataloging and preservation of memorials have become common practice following mass shootings. Historians have consistently saved such items after other tragic events, such as the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado and the Pulse nightclub attack in Florida.

Maine MILL, the museum, aims to expedite the process of taking possession of these items and cataloging them, making them accessible to the community as soon as possible.

Due to the sheer volume of bouquets and pumpkins left at the makeshift memorials, only a portion of them will be preserved. Some flowers will be dried, while certain pumpkins will be scanned and 3D-printed for display at the museum. The remainder will be composted.

Angelynne Amores, a city spokesperson, marveled at the creativity displayed in the ways that the victims were memorialized, highlighting the unique and personal responses of individuals: “There isn’t one size fits all for this kind of tragedy. There are so many different ways for people to take that path toward healing.”

Importantly, this effort is an ongoing one, and people are encouraged to continue leaving items if it feels right to them. Rachel Ferrante expressed her expectation that more items will be added, acknowledging the importance of individualized and community-driven healing: “People can do what feels right for them. What we’re trying to provide is help and community healing. People need to heal and grieve in whatever way makes sense for them.”

For further updates on this matter, you can follow David Sharp on Twitter: @David_Sharp_AP.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Memorial Preservation

What was the purpose of removing memorials from the shooting sites?

The removal of memorials from the shooting sites served a dual purpose. Firstly, it was necessary due to impending snowfall to prevent the memorials from being damaged by the elements or cleared by plows. Secondly, it marked a symbolic transition and was seen as the right time for the community to start the healing process.

Where will the collected memorials be exhibited?

The collected memorials will be exhibited at a museum located in Lewiston, Maine. Specifically, they will be archived, cataloged, and prepared for exhibition at the Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning, and Labor.

What kinds of items were included in these memorials?

The memorials included a wide range of items, from handwritten signs and cards to bouquets, small sculptures, and even more unconventional items like a bowling ball, darts, and a miniature cornhole tribute. These items were poignant reminders of the locations where the tragic events occurred.

Why is preserving these memorials important?

Preserving these memorials is crucial to ensure that the community does not forget the tragic events and how it came together to support one another. It serves as a way to honor the memory of those who lost their lives and provide a means for community healing and remembrance.

Will more items be added to the memorials?

Yes, the preservation effort is ongoing, and people are encouraged to continue leaving items if it feels right to them. The goal is to provide flexibility for individuals and the community to heal and grieve in their own way.

More about Memorial Preservation

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HopefulSoul December 5, 2023 - 8:44 pm

Healing takes time, but dis community is strong. Let’s hope 4 brighter days ahead.

Reader123 December 5, 2023 - 9:17 pm

wow, dis wuz such a sad story 🙁 but it’s gud dey gonna keep da memorials in a museum, so ppl dont forget.

MuseumLover55 December 6, 2023 - 3:09 am

Museums play imp role in preservin history. Kudos to Maine MILL for doin dis noble work.

Heartfelt1 December 6, 2023 - 8:43 am

removin stuff b4 da snow iz smart, but it also symbolizes change. im glad dese items will b in a museum.


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