VIRGINIA BEACH — Flowers, rosaries, notes and a construction hardhat lay among the hundreds of items three city museum employees are gathering up to preserve.
Those items are from makeshift memorials of the Municipal Center mass shooting that claimed 12 lives and injured four others.
“We are collecting the items left in honor of the victims, photographing them and then offering the items to the families to keep,” said Anne Miller, History Museums coordinator.
If the family members decide not to keep the items then the city’s museums are preparing to place the items in storage while a more permanent plan is made on where to display them, she said.
Preserving and recording those items was an immediate response Miller and other museum employees had in the aftermath of the shooting.
“We saw a need to gather these items and form them into an archive,” she said. “This will likely be one of the most important historical events in the city’s history and we want to document and preserve it.”
The temporary platform in front of Building 11 is where she and two other museum employees have been collecting items from this week.
Miller anticipates the collection will take about a week or so to complete with the goal being either a permanent archive or a permanent memorial located somewhere else in the Municipal Center.
“The items are such a testament to the support of the community,” she said.
Planning a permanent memorial
On Monday, the city manager’s office sent out a survey to all city employees and the victims’ families, asking for input on what the permanent memorial should look and feel like to them.
“It is critical to have employee and the victims’ families input,” Miller said, adding she anticipates the construction of a permanent memorial may take a while to set up.
In addition to the core group of city employees who have been handling all of this, the city has received guidance and support from other areas affected by mass shootings, Miller said.
Orlando, Las Vegas and Virginia Tech all have reached out to them.
“It’s nice to know we’re not doing this alone,” she said, noting how hard it has been to go through all of the mementos left behind for the victims.
“I’m glad the memorial has been a place for the community to gather,” she added.
In addition to the museum’s efforts to gather all of the items, the city’s communications office will begin the process of recording both written and oral histories of the people associated with the mass shooting.
Miller estimated it could be several months before people will be ready to talk about what happened but the communications office will be ready to record them whenever they are.
To find out more information about the city’s efforts to recover, click here.