Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Conservation after the Las Vegas Mass Shooting

On the night of October 1, 2017, a shooter opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. He killed 58 people and wounded 413, with the ensuing panic bringing the injury total to 869. The incident is the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the history of the United States. This horrible incident came just 16 months after the mass shooting in Orlando that killed 49 people.

Cynthia Sanford the curator at the Clark County Museum took on the responsibility of having to archive the memorial items left for those lost. Volunteers sifted through items collected, took photos and carefully documented and archived every item that entered the collection. Pam Schwartz of the Orange County Regional History Center flew to Las Vegas to offer any advice she might have after collecting and archiving in Orlando.

The two collection sites were vastly different. In Orlando humidity, heat and daily rains soaked and degraded items left at memorial sites in Orlando. Las Vegas literally has no rain. The concert site however was next to the Las Vegas airport and Cynthia said that anything left on the site was literally blown over by planes as they landed or took off.

The Clark County Museum (1830 S. Boulder Highway, Henderson, NV) includes the Anna Roberts Parks Exhibit Hall and Heritage Street which contains eight historic buildings from the county.  In a building that was once a railroad station behind the museum, volunteers were hard at work even 6 months following the shooting. The woman taking photos of each item choked up as she described how proud she was to be taking part in the process.

The October 1st collection at the Clark County museum is made up of tens of thousands of artifacts that help to tell the story of how the community reacted to the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. The artifacts will be cataloged to record information such as physical descriptions, dimensions, and conditions. Each artifact will also be photographed or scanned for identification purposes. As museum staff and volunteers process these artifacts, you will be able to follow our progress by viewing identification photographs.

Museum curators across the country have formed an informal support group. Knowledge gained after one mass shooting is passed on the curators in the next city overwhelmed by tragedy and the super human effort needed should that community decide to collect memorial items. It is a small community that no one asks to be a part of. 

On September 28, 2018 The Clark County Museum opened  "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the 1 October Memorials". Items put on display included flags, stuffed animals, rosaries, artificial flowers, signs, letters, banners, candles, art works and a portion of a Hawaiian lei that was used as a symbol to promote world peace. The Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando has also mounted an exhibit each year to remember those who were lost.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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