From the Archives: Preserving Officer Sean Collier’s legacy

Mementos from memorial site become part of MIT’s archives and history

Collier Memorial mementos

Photo by: Dominick Reuter

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, on April 18, 2013, MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was killed in the line of duty by the alleged bombers. Shortly thereafter a makeshift memorial sprang up near the site. Hundreds of items were left at the memorial including flowers, notes, photographs, candles, stuffed animals, and numbers from Marathon runners.

With the consent of the Institute administration and MIT Police, staff of the Institute Archives collected the items, leaving only the flowers and candles. The collected items, which had been exposed to the elements, were brought to the Libraries’ Wunsch Conservation Lab where they were placed in a freezer to kill any potentially harmful mold. After an appropriate time, items were cleaned and rehoused in custom-built enclosures. The items were then cataloged and stored in the Archives. Additional items were collected as the memorial remained in place for six months, and at that point a marker was placed on the spot.

During the process staff of the Institute Archives and Special Collections met with members of the MIT Police to facilitate the collection and preservation of the items. And with the approval of Officer Collier’s family, and the MIT Police, the collection was given to the Institute Archives. A permanent memorial is scheduled to be unveiled in April, along with the collection in the Archives. Both will provide a permanent tribute to Officer Collier and serve as a reminder of his sacrifice for future generations. The MIT Libraries are honored to have been able to assist in preserving Officer Collier’s legacy.

For more information about the collection, contact