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Murrah Bombing Memorial Archives Hold Thousands of Memories

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The Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives are an often unobserved part of the museum. The Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives are an often unobserved part of the museum.
Thousands of items are stored in the memorial archives in a temperature controlled environment to protect the memories they represent. Thousands of items are stored in the memorial archives in a temperature controlled environment to protect the memories they represent.
A member of the archives' staff works on an item. A member of the archives' staff works on an item.

By Jon Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- While many have taken the tour of the Oklahoma City National Memorial there's a good chance some have never seen the museum's archives.

To get there, museum goers must take the elevator to the bottom floor, but even then few have actually sifted through the thousands of items.

There are so many items left from the day of the Murrah Bombing and even new items that visitors add, like the one's people leave on the fence, that make it impossible for them all to be put on display. This is where the museum's archives come in, to be an area where the sole purpose is to keep the history of April 19, 1995 alive.

It often starts with a simple gesture, a way of saying "we remember" and "we'll never forget."

"It's heartbreaking, reality hits you when you see it," Gary Dee from Wisconsin said.

They are the personal items that visitors have left on the fence of the Murrah Bombing Memorial, from stuffed animals to clothes.

"There's a Wisconsin plate back there, I never thought in a million years there would be a Wisconsin plate to be out here," Dee said.

But, because there is only so much room, over time the items must come down to make way for new ones. That is when they are moved to the archives.

"This is a T-shirt that was left on the fence," Collections Manager Helen Stiefmiller said.

The museum's archives house things such as the playhouse from the children's playground or some of the original items left on the fence, and found locked away are the other more than 600 original sketches for the Murrah Bombing Memorial.

Being in the archives is almost like going back to the day of the Murrah Bombing. Many pieces are left from Timothy McVeigh's Ryder truck and other important items that my never be displayed.

But, nevertheless, every item in the archives is tagged, documented and stored in a way to keep them from getting ruined. The archives staff members work hard to make that possible.

"This room is climate controlled," said Stiefmiller. "We keep it at 68 degrees Fahrenheit and about 45 percent humidity. Our lights have UV filters on them so the light won't damage objects, so everything we do is to preserve objects."

The other goal of the archives is to help preserve the lives lost.

"The whole point or part of the memorial here is to keep the memory of these people alive," said Stiefmiller. "You get to know Don Burns. He loved to golf and this is his putter set and a family member left this on his chair. Lanny Scroggins loved to fish and one of his family members or friends left this fishing lure on his chair."

But whether it's a fishing lure or putter set, inside every box is another item with another memory that combined help to provide a snap shot of a moment in time.

"All the items we are trying to preserve them as long as we can to try and help tell the story," Stiefmiller said.

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