The objects were placed on the street after last year's Boston Marathon terror bombings, mute but eloquent expressions of the feelings of a public shocked by the attack and sympathetic to the victims. But at some point, they had to be cleared away.
Now the items have been brought back from the city's archives and put on display at the Boston Public Library. Mayor Martin J. Walsh opened the exhibit to the public on Monday.
The free exhibit — titled "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial" — took pieces of the makeshift memorial set up in Copley Square in days after the bombing and categorized them, said curator Rainey Tisdale .
The installation is part of a larger effort by Boston cultural institutions called "#BostonBetter" that will include concerts and talks marking the first anniversary of the bombing, which killed three people and wounded more than 260.
After the attack, people gathered near the bombing site to pray and pay tribute, bringing with them old sneakers, T-shirts, hats, and posters. The items were later brought to the city's archives for safekeeping.
Tisdale said she thought of the exhibit after seeing the spontaneous memorial.
"I started thinking of the bombing as a local museum professional," said Tisdale. "I knew it was my duty to make sure this event was preserved."
She spent weeks looking through all the objects. Tisdale selected three themes: initial response, reflections on the attacks, and hopeful messages.
The exhibit will run through May 11.
E-mail Jacqueline Tempera at firstname.lastname@example.org