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.