Memorial tributes are what we call the beautiful and diverse materials placed at the three spontaneous memorial sites around Tucson which grew up the wake of the shootings of January 8, 2011. These tribute materials form an incredible collection of the community’s heartfelt response to this tragedy. With over 500 linear feet of diverse materials including thousands of cards and letters, signs, candles, paper chains, tiles, stuffed toys, flowers, balloons, flags, rocks, photos and many other materials, the memorial tributes archives is a manifestation of the collective outpouring of grief, sadness and the expression of myriad hopes for positive changes to be born out of the tragedy. These moving tribute materials were created and offered at three sites around Tucson in the wake of the shootings and grew into large and complex memorial sites which were continually visited by community members during January and early February 2011.
These community-created memorials were spontaneous and organic, a place for people to gather together in shared grief and hope, and while the memorials could not remain indefinitely in the locations where they grew up, the need to preserve these touching tribute materials for future generations was clear. In early Feb 2011, the tribute materials at UMC, Safeway and Congresswoman Giffords’ office were carefully gathered, dried and given basic preservation treatments for exposure to the elements by trained archivists from University of Arizona Special Collections and a group of volunteers. The tribute items were then stored while long-term decisions could be carefully considered about their future archival processing and possible use in exhibits or a permanent memorial dedicated to January 8th.
Our team of volunteers has been working diligently since October 2013 to unpack, categorize and document the memorial tribute materials. We have created a digital collection of tribute materials on th Arizona Memory Project website (a project of Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records) and have created physical exhibits which were on display at three Pima County Public Library branches in January 2014. We’ve been exploring myriad ways to honor the love, care and concern manifested in these important tribute materials, including sharing them through Pinterest, digital exhibits, and social media outlets. We continue to explore options for long-term archiving of items of enduring research value, such as letters and signs, while also working with artists and exhibit designers to explore options for transforming some more common items such as candles into art pieces for display at the permanent memorial space.