Memorabilia at Mother Emanuel Church

Flowers, candles, notes, and other memorabilia left outside of the Emanuel AME Church, photograph by Brandon Coffey, June 29, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

Flowers, candles, notes, and other memorabilia left outside of the Emanuel AME Church, photograph by Brandon Coffey, June 29, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

In the days, weeks, and months after the shooting on June 17th, 2015, visitors left vast amounts of memorabilia in front of the Mother Emanuel Church. These items included flowers, letters, candles, and artwork as well as banners, posters, and plywood boards covered in signatures and messages of support. Visitors even covered the trees and fire hydrant in front of the church in handwritten messages. As the items in front of the church continued to grow in number each day, the city closed off a lane of Calhoun Street to accommodate both the memorabilia and the crowds of visitors who came to pay their respects. 

In response, Mother Emanuel church members and leaders, City of Charleston representatives, and professionals from local archival repositories and historic institutions formed a Memorabilia Sub-Committee to organize efforts to maintain the items left in front of the church each day, as well as memorabilia sent by mail. This committee quickly coordinated a schedule of volunteers to move sensitive items indoors so they would not be damaged by the heavy rain and heat of a Charleston summer. For this reason, the memorabilia left outside of the Emanuel AME Church changed each day as visitors left new items and volunteers moved items into storage. The following images reveal how the memorabilia items changed over time, and show just a few of the thousands of visitors who came to pay their respects at the church after the shooting. Many of the items left at Mother Emanuel are currently in climate-controlled storage provided by the City of Charleston, with processing assistance provided by CALM (Charleston Archives, Libraries, and Museum Council), while church leaders determine next steps for organizing and making these materials accessible.

A mother comforts her young daughter outside the Emanuel AME Church two days after the shooting, photograph by Joe Raedle / Getty Images, June 19, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

Members of Mother Emanuel and many others gathered at the Emanuel AME Church for their first Sunday service since the shooting, photograph by Paul Zoeller-Pool / Getty Images, June 21, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

A woman mourns outside of the Emanuel AME Church, photograph by Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images, June 23, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

Black Lives Matter and One Love posters outside the Emanuel AME Church, photograph by Brandon Coffey, June 29, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

Black Lives Matter and One Love posters in front of the Emanuel AME Church, photograph by Brandon Coffey, June 29, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

Visitors stop outside the Emanuel AME Church to pay their respects, photograph by Delane Chavez, June 20, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

Visitors stop outside the Emanuel AME Church to pay their respects, photograph by Delane Chavez, June 20, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.