There's a commonly held belief that art heals. Some will tell you the act of taking a photograph, writing a poem, crafting a memorial cross or just writing a heartfelt note will ease sorrow. And it's probably true that the time it takes to create acts as a meditative period, time set apart for the brain and heart to process grief.
But art also stops time. Looking back at that photo or poem you made can snap you right back into the immediacy of the moment you made it – or, for viewers, it can put them there too. That's what the History Center hopes to achieve with Another Year Passes: Orlando After the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, an exhibit of images and artifacts from the period after the mass shooting.
"Our History Center staff works hard to help remember times of both joy and sorrow in Central Florida's past," says Michael Perkins, Orange County Regional History Center manager. "From capturing the texture of everyday life to commemorating singular events – including the tragedy at Pulse – we strive to honor and preserve history."
History Center employees and volunteers spent hundreds of hours collecting and preserving art, mementos and commemorative items from the many memorial sites that popped up around the region. More than 5,000 individual objects have been cataloged by the curatorial staff so far. Most of the pieces in this show have not been exhibited before.
"We have an entire wall dedicated to 'Sites of Solidarity,' artifacts that came to us from those places where similar massacres have taken place, including loaned artifacts from the Oklahoma City National Museum and Memorial, as well as Virginia Tech," says chief curator Pamela Schwartz. "It is an incredibly impactful section, and shows the all too rapid growth of the club in which our community has found itself a member."
Other sections include Pulse tattoos, a remembrance quilt made by the Modern Quilt Guild, items made by children, and displays centered on activism and therapy animals.
"The main way this exhibition is the same as last year is in that it focuses on healing, remembrance, and the way our community banded together," Schwartz says, but the way it's different is that they'll be "focusing on what has changed for Orlando, as well as what new stories we have learned."
She acknowledges the unique challenges of this exhibit, though, understanding that there's a fine line between remembering a tragedy and letting it consume you. "We worked very hard to ensure it would not be negative or retraumatizing in any way."
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs says, "By memorializing the terrible losses that so many have suffered, as well as the incredible response of love and unity, we hope to educate and inspire people from all walks of life to realize that our everyday acts of love and kindness make a profound difference in this world."
The exhibition remains open through October, but for the week of June 10-16, admission is free. For those who can't make it to the History Center, the One Orlando Collection Initiative has set up an online digital gallery of photos and memorial items that pays tribute to the victims and survivors at oneorlandocollection.com.