Items from Boston Marathon Memorial preserved along with other artifacts of the city’s history

BOSTON — Along Boylston Street, between Exeter and Fairfield Street, stands the permanent memorial for the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Illuminated spires reach to the sky, not far from the race’s finish line.

The memorial honors Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, and Martin Richard who were killed when the bombs changed Boston’s history forever.

Before this memorial was built, a sprawling expression of the region’s collective sorrow sprang up in Copley Square, giving everyone a chance to express a deep sense of loss.

Bostonians and people from around the world left handmade posters, letters, old running shoes, and stuffed animals.

Toni Lansbury of Brookline felt compelled to create a poster expressing her love of Boston.

“Dear Boston,” she wrote, “We’ve been thru a lot together over the last 30 years, you and me. And I realized how much I loved you a few weeks ago when someone tried to turn you into a tragedy.”

It was a personal expression of pain after a public act of hate.

Lansbury walked the marathon route from Brookline to Copley Square to add her contribution to the memorial that covered the square after the bombings.

“I sort of took it personally. I love the city. I related to it. I have so many memories in the city, in Copley, in those very same places that this happened. So, I wrote a letter to Boston, just telling the city how much I loved it, how much it meant to me, and how I was supporting and loving it.”

Most of the items that made up the Copley Square memorial came to the Boston city archives in West Roxbury.

“We know that we have over 10,000 items,” said Marta Crilly, the archivist for reference and outreach. “There were many three dimensional items like sneakers, banners, stuffed animals, pieces of art, and then there was quite a bit of paper material, notes, cards letters.”

Crilly said people poured their hearts into a lot of those items. “By preserving those items, we really get a window into how it felt to be in Boston at that time.”

The archive has documents dating back to 1634.

Before any of the marathon mementos could be brought into the facility, each item needed to be treated in a very specific way.

“One of the things that is different about these artifacts is that they lived in the outdoors for months,” explained Crilly. “They were desiccated which means they were dried out and they were put in a fumigation bubble which is a C02 bubble and that was to kill anything that was living on the items.”

“Boston strong is everywhere,” said John McColgan as he looked at the saved items. He just retired after serving as the chief archivist for 30 years.

He said one of the items that really moves him is a small teddy bear.

It was left in memory of Martin Richard by two young sisters, Ava and Isabelle.

A note attached to the stuffed animal said in part, “Dear little boy, I’m so sorry that you’re in heaven. My sister and I wanted to give you a little gift to show you how sorry we are.”

Crilly said it was difficult for the staff to deal with such emotional items for more than a year.

“Every single day, we were working with items that reminded us of what happened, but I also think that we felt a lot of gratitude to be able to document and preserve history of this event.”

Crilly said it was a privilege for them to be able to do that. “Even thought we had sad, heavy days we really felt the importance of preserving this material.”

Preserving mementos from a moment in time.

Items that captured an entire region’s effort to come to terms with unspeakable pain.

“I think the love that was shown by so many people that weren’t even from Boston during that event was so helpful in all of our healing,” Lansbury said.

Anyone can call or email the archives and schedule an appointment if they want to see any of the collection.

At this point, there are no plans to create a permanent display.

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