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Memorials from Maine’s Deadliest Mass Shootings to be Preserved for Museum Exhibition

by Madison Thomas
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In an endeavor marked by solemnity and significance, volunteers and municipal workers have initiated the process of collecting and safeguarding mementos, signs, and various tributes that had gathered at the sites of Maine’s most devastating mass shootings. This undertaking signifies not only a transition of seasons but also a new phase in the local community’s journey towards recovery.

Among the poignant artifacts being collected are handwritten signs, heartfelt cards, poignant bouquets, and numerous other tokens of remembrance, totaling over a thousand in number. These items will be meticulously archived, cataloged, and meticulously prepared for display in a museum located in Lewiston.

This endeavor is driven by practical considerations as well. The impending snowfall necessitates the removal of these memorials to prevent their degradation due to the elements or inadvertent contact with snowplows. However, the organizers are keen to emphasize that the timing aligns with the ongoing process of healing and mourning within the communities, following the tragic events of October 25, during which 18 lives were lost, and 13 individuals were injured.

Rachel Ferrante, the executive director of the Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning, and Labor, situated within a former mill building in Lewiston, articulated the sentiment behind this effort, stating, “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.”

These memorials are both heart-rending and heartwarming. Among them are numerous sculptures of hands portraying the American Sign Language symbol for “love,” paying homage to four members of the local deaf community who tragically lost their lives. The memorials also encompass countless signs, notes, hearts, and votive candles from vigils. Some more unconventional items include a bowling ball, darts, and a miniature cornhole tribute, all harkening back to the locations where the victims were shot – a bowling alley and a bar hosting a cornhole tournament.

The most sizeable item, a stuffed moose, has been significantly affected by exposure to snow and rain.

These shootings occurred just days before Halloween, and the removal of these items, occurring a day after the season’s first snowfall, signifies a symbolic shift in the weather and mood.

Over 20 individuals, including museum staff, volunteers, and municipal workers, came together to carefully remove these memorials from three distinct locations: the bowling alley, the bar where the shootings transpired, and a bustling street corner that had organically transformed into a memorial site.

Tanja Hollander, a local artist participating in the project, highlighted the importance of preserving these items promptly, stating, “We really wanted to save them before they were buried under 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 these events left the community deeply scarred. Given the high number of casualties and the nature of the attacks, virtually everyone in the vicinity had a connection to a victim or knew someone who did. The terror of those moments during the extensive manhunt for the perpetrator, which concluded with his self-inflicted gunshot wound, further exacerbated the trauma.

Subsequently, the community had to endure a series of funerals over several weeks.

The practice of cataloging such memorials has become customary following mass shootings, akin to previous instances such as the Columbine and Littleton, Colorado attacks and the nightclub tragedy in Orlando, Florida.

Maine MILL, the museum undertaking this initiative, aims to swiftly take possession of these items and catalog them to make them accessible to the community.

Given the sheer volume of bouquets and pumpkins that were left at these shrines, only a select few will be preserved. Some flowers will be dried, and some pumpkins will be scanned and 3D-printed for eventual display in the museum. The remaining items will be returned to the earth through composting, in accordance with eco-conscious practices.

Angelynne Amores, a spokesperson for the city, marveled at the diverse and creative ways in which the victims were commemorated. She acknowledged that people near and far from the tragedy found unique ways to express their emotions and pay tribute.

“There isn’t one size fits all for this kind of tragedy,” she remarked. “There are so many different ways for people to take that path toward healing.”

Crucially, this initiative remains open to further contributions. Rachel Ferrante anticipates that more items may be offered, as people cope with their grief in the way that feels most meaningful to them.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Memorial Preservation

Why are volunteers and city workers removing memorials from mass shooting sites in Maine?

Volunteers and city workers are removing these memorials due to practical reasons, primarily to prevent their destruction by snowfall or plowing. Additionally, it is seen as an appropriate time to archive and prepare them for a museum exhibition as the community continues to heal after the tragic events.

What will happen to the collected memorials?

The collected memorials, including handwritten signs, cards, bouquets, and various items, will be carefully archived, cataloged, and prepared for exhibition at a museum in Lewiston, Maine.

Why is it important to preserve these memorials?

Preserving these memorials is essential to ensure that the community does not forget the tragic events and how it came together in response. It serves as a way to honor the victims and provide a space for remembrance.

How were the victims memorialized?

The victims were memorialized through a wide range of tributes, including sculptures of hands symbolizing “love” in American Sign Language, signs, notes, hearts, and votive candles. Some unique items, such as a bowling ball, darts, and a miniature cornhole tribute, were also part of the memorials.

Who is overseeing the preservation and exhibition of these memorials?

The Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning, and Labor, located in Lewiston, is responsible for overseeing the preservation and exhibition of these memorials.

Can people still contribute additional items to the memorials?

Yes, the initiative remains open to further contributions from the community. People are encouraged to contribute items as a way of coping with their grief and participating in the healing process.

More about Memorial Preservation

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3 comments

JohnDoe94 December 6, 2023 - 2:30 am

wow, so sad to hear abt this shootin, gud they savin them stuff tho

Reply
SeriousWriter007 December 6, 2023 - 2:44 am

Important story, makin sure community remember

Reply
TechieGuy December 6, 2023 - 2:54 pm

I hope more ppl contribute 2 the memorials, helpin the healing process

Reply

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