The murder of 49 people in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando in June was a tragedy to most. To the employees and volunteers of the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, the mass shooting was a tragedy and a chapter of LGBT history.
One they’re already trying to document.
“Orlando 49” is an effort by Stonewall, in conjunction with Orange County Regional History Center and The One Orlando Collection Initiative, to collect items from the numerous vigils and remembrance events held in the wake of the mass shooting. Signs, flyers, letters and art are some of the items they are soliciting to be included in the eventual exhibit.
“We have a responsibility as an LGBT cultural history museum to document as much of the events that affect our community as we can,” said Emery Grant, Stonewall’s director of community engagement. “Our job is to preserve and share the cultural history of LGBT people so that these stories are documented and facts can be shared and preserve for the future.”
The items donated so far include a letter from a child who attended a prayer vigil in Illinois, an American vernacular memorial art created by artists Brian Reaume and Lorenzo Doyle, a letter from PFLAG and a Pride flag with the names of the 49 victims inscribed on it. “I feel bad for you so I hope you have a good life in heaven. Love is awesome!” reads the letter from the child.
“We have collections based on several specific points in history. This is one of many such records. Although with the way news transpires today, the Orlando tragedy proved to have new challenges including documentation of online content, online memorials, Facebook posts and events, video, and an increase in American vernacular memorial art,” wrote Chris Rudisill, Stonewall’s executive director, in an email.
He estimates there are about 20 items donated so far, some as far away as Japan, with more expected.
“Our overarching goal in this collection initiative is to ensure that there is an authentic history of what occurred and the community that it affected. We are sure that there will long be an emotional response to this tragedy, especially here in South Florida where we are so close to Orlando. We hope that the items are able to transcend into thoughtful discussion and education about the very real issues that exist for our community,” wrote Rudisill. “We know that the tragic event on June 12, 2016 and the amazing unified response of many communities will be important to the heritage and history of the LGBTQ+ community and we take pride in the responsibility of safeguarding those items for posterity and historical and educational value for generations to come.”
There’s no set date on when the items will be put on display for the public but the goal right now is to have the exhibit ready by December.
For more information on donating items, call 954-763-8565.