By Camille Myers Breeze
On the morning of April 7, 2014, Museum Textile Services staff met on the steps of the Boston Public Library before joining the crowds of visitors and press in attendance for the opening of the exhibit, "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial." During the previous month, we conserved 19 textiles left at the temporary memorial site in Copley Square following the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, 2013.
The press conference began with a speech by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who was followed by Massachusetts State Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey. All three spoke about what it was like in Boston immediately following the Marathon bombings, and the great job the first responders did in the ensuing days. New England Museum Association Executive Director Dan Yeager, then came on stage and aptly concluded the press conference by thanking those who had contributed funds and services to the exhibit, including our colleagues Will Twombley of Spokeshave Design, Adam Osgood of Historic New England, Independent Curator Rainey Tisdale, and Independent exhibition curator Anne Starr.
As we strolled through the exhibit, it was important to remember that this was not your average art opening. Eye witnesses and people who had been injured by the two terrorist bombs strained to see inside the display cases where notes and signs were displayed along side many textile items, such as shirts, baseball caps, and teddy bears. At the center of the room was the exhibit's main feature, a square platform with hundreds of pairs of running shoes stacked in rows, signifying how the running community and the general public had come together following the bombing in support of a city, a community, and our historic Marathon.
In the spirit of the impromptu memorial at which these display items were originally displayed, visitors were invited to leave messages on paper tags and tie them to one of the three trees along one wall of the exhibit hall. This was a powerful way to evoke the outdoor feel of the marathon memorial and allow those of us who didn't make it to Boston in the weeks following the bombings to finally take a moment to say what we were feeling.
"Dear Boston" is joint effort of the Boston City Archives, Boston Art Commission,New England Museum Association, and Boston Public Library. Generous funding was provided by Iron Mountain. For more events marking the first anniversary of the Boston marathon bombings, visit #BostonBetter.
By Camille Myers Breeze
When I was approached in May of 2013 to participate in a voluntary effort to preserve artifacts left at the temporary memorial site in Copley Square following the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, I said yes without hesitation. Dan Yeager, Executive Director of the New England Museum Association, facilitated communication among regional museum professionals.
The Archives and Records Management Division of the City of Boston Office of the City Clerk oversaw the dismantling and preservation preservation effort for the memorial artifacts. First City Archives staff and volunteer from across the museum spectrum documented and packed artifacts into donated boxes. The boxes were loaded into trucks donated by Polygon Corporation and transported to Polygon's facility in Georgetown, MA, where they were air dried with a dessicant. Next they were fumigated by Historic New England in their anoxic fumigation bubble to eliminate the possibility of insect, mold, and bacterial activity. After fumigation, the artifacts were transported to the Boston City Archives in West Roxbury where staff accessioned the material into the collection and stored in their climate-controlled facility.
Our colleague Rainey Tisdale soon took over curatorial responsibilities for the exhibit, "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial," which will be at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square on April 7 through May 11. Memories of the minutes and days following the two explosions, three tragic deaths, and the subsequent manhunt for two suspects, are still vivid. The challenge for this exhibit will be to present the initial emotional response and tell the story of the attack in a way that also reflects hope and strength.
In early March, Museum Textile Services technician Josephine Johnson retrieved a box from City Archives volunteers containing nineteen artifacts from the temporary marathon bombing memorial. Inside the box are hats, shirts, baby onesies, and even a Starbucks apron inscribed with messages and memories of the often-anonymous donors. Over the next three weeks, Josephine and visiting conservation assistant Lisa Yeats, photographed, surface cleaned, humidified, and gently straightened out these artifacts so that they can now be safely preserved and exhibited without their condition detracting from the message they are sending.
Over the next few months, numerous memorial efforts will take place across the Boston area to commemorate the events of the marathon bombings and to help continue the healing. For more information, visit BostonBetter.