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Boston Public Library Opens Marathon Memorial Exhibit

Kevin Brown pauses to look at an exhibit entitled "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial" at the Boston Public Library on Monday. Brown, a carpenter, constructed the cross that is displayed for fallen MIT Officer Sean Collier. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Kevin Brown pauses to look at an exhibit entitled "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial" at the Boston Public Library on Monday. Brown, a carpenter, constructed the cross that is displayed for fallen MIT Officer Sean Collier. (Elise Amendola/AP)
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Colorful, large-scale photographs and descriptive text guide visitors through the new Boston Marathon memorial exhibition, which opened Monday at the public library’s central branch in Copley Square.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh — one of many city, state and cultural leaders who attended a morning reception — called the exhibition a “tribute” to how the community comes together when tragedy strikes.

“We turn to each other and offer whatever we have to give — a helping hand, a word of comfort, a token of hope,” he said.

Walsh also acknowledged last week’s fire that killed two firefighters.

The exhibition is a curated collection of artifacts left by mourners in the wake of the bombing. Walsh said the mementos “bear witness to something special, something that is important to all of us.”

The “Dear Boston” exhibit at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. (Courtesy BPL)
The “Dear Boston” exhibit at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. (Courtesy BPL)

The notes, running shoes, teddy bears and posters are symbols of a wider community, Walsh continued. “They remind us that we’re not alone," he said. "They remind us that by coming together we have the strength to persevere. Seeing them appear — preserved in such a beautiful form — we receive their healing powers all over again with witness to a source of strength. That strength is the spirit of Boston.”

In two weeks the 118th Boston Marathon runners will make their way to Copley Square, and the mayor predicted the event will be a “living, breathing celebration of our city’s resilience.”

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey also took to the podium to add some reflections.

“One year ago our hearts and our city were shattered,” he said. “Lives, limbs, loved ones, all lost in the span of 10 seconds. This exhibit, this memorial, helps to answer the question, 'How do we put the pieces back together again?' ”

Markey said the exhibit — which is a collaboration between the Boston Arts Commission, the Boston Public Library, the Boston City Archives, the New England Museum Association, the Iron Mountain file storage company and others — shows us how to rebuild by taking the “shattered shards of the past” and patching them together for hope in the future.

“Dear Boston” opened to the public at 11 a.m. Monday and visitors were lining up to enter the gallery. Jack Kremers wanted to see the exhibit before flying back to Chicago after visiting his daughter in South Boston.

“We definitely need something like this,” he said. “And this is probably the appropriate time, too, because it really does come back in your memories with the marathon coming up in a couple of weeks. And I think it will help everyone express their feelings and support for Boston.”

Mitch Kroner, of Groveland, Mass., said he and his wife also decided to "pay their respects" with the pending anniversary. He called “Dear Boston" “very moving,” and believes the exhibition will help.

“It’s still kind of raw," he admitted, "and I think it’s going to be difficult day in two weeks, but I think Boston is strong and we’ll get through it."

26.2: Beyond The Finish Line Of The 2014 Boston Marathon:

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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