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Marathon memorial to open at Boston Public Library

Workers dismantled the Copley Square memorial to the marathon bombings in June 2013.Bill Greene/Globe staff

In the days following last year’s Boston Marathon bombing, people gathered near the site of the attacks to pay tribute. They brought their old sneakers, photos, T-shirts, and hats to leave at the scene, offering messages of sympathy, love, and hope.

The items found a temporary home in the heart of Copley Square before being moved to the city’s archives for safekeeping.

Now, the items will reappear in an exhibit opening at the Boston Public Library in April.

The exhibit 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.


Curator Rainey Tisdale said she conceived of the exhibit shortly after the makeshift memorial was set up. “I started thinking of the bombing as a local museum professional,” Tisdale said Wednesday. “I knew it was my duty to make sure this event was preserved.”

She spent weeks combing through the items in the archives, working to find themes. “It was a very emotional and intense process,” Tisdale said. “I saw so many amazing, heartfelt things.”

In the exhibit, set to open April 7 and run to May 11, the memorabilia will be displayed in three categories.

The first will include people’s initial reactions. Tisdale will display items showing love for Boston, gratitude for first responders, and sadness for those who died or were injured.

The second category will be deeper, she said, showcasing people’s reflections on the attacks.

The final category will include hopeful messages. Tisdale said many people promised to improve themselves in light of the event, and she wanted this section of the exhibit to look ahead.

“We didn’t want people to come in and see all of these things and feel this emotion and then leave,” she said. “We wanted them to feel like they could move forward.”


Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera