Dear Boston

On April 15, 2013, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, transforming the city, its residents, and the runners and visitors participating in this world-famous event. Almost immediately, a makeshift memorial began to take shape, first at the police barricade at the intersection of Boylston and Berkeley Streets and later at Copley Square. People from across the globe left flowers, posters, notes, t-shirts, hats, tokens of all shapes and sizes, and—most significantly—running shoes. In June, the memorial was dismantled and these thousands of objects were transferred to the Boston City Archives for safekeeping. It is only now, after months of preservation and organization, that the collection’s meaning has become clear. Each of these objects, whether giant banner or tiny scrap of paper, store-bought or handmade, is a message of love, support, and hope for a city in mourning.

For the one-year anniversary of the bombing, selections from the memorial collection were displayed in the exhibition Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial at the Boston Public Library. ObjectIDEA served as the exhibition developer.

This exhibition provided an opportunity for visitors to once again experience the outpouring of love that everyday people brought to Copley Square in the first weeks after the bombing. It helped visitors make meaning from this tragedy while providing a quiet public space for reflection. As they encountered the profound emotions the messages from the memorial evoked, visitors were encouraged to ask themselves what they can do to sustain and build upon these expressions of communal support, and to move forward together to heal a grieving city.

Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial was organized by a partnership that included the Boston City Archives,Boston Art CommissionNew England Museum Association, and Boston Public Library. It was made possible by the generous support of Iron Mountain. The exhibition was on view from April 7 through May 11, 2014, at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and steps away from the original memorial.