The Story of the Stuff: Issues in Temporary Memorial Preservation

The Artist

Ross MacDonald, professional illustrator and propmaker, worked to preserve the letters that were pouring into Newtown. He began taking pictures with his cellphone and posting them onto the blog "Letters to Newtown." The fear was a possible plan for the letters to be burn into "sacred soil"--an ash to be incorporated into a permanent memorial at a later date.

He reached out to the New York Times and Mother Jones magazine and as a result, both news outlets covered the story. Mother Jones also created an activist video as well as sponsored his Tumblr blog in effort to save the letters.

"I mean, digital archives are something that I use every week in my work for researching period props. And if it weren't for somebody recording and archiving and scanning letters, forms, really, really mundane stuff, I wouldn't be able to do what I do.

I just feel like now is probably not the time to make that decision about what to do with this stuff. If we decide in a year, if the town says, 'Yeah. We're done with it. Let's get rid of it,' then fine. But to do it now, when emotions are still very raw is a mistake.

A lot of people have said, 'Well, you know, there's newspaper accounts. There's media accounts. Everybody knows what happened here. '

But if you do any historic research, you know that what what you find out in the newspapers is only a tiny part of the story. If you want to research something that happened 40, 50, 100 years ago, you get a much broader picture looking at all the other documentation."

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