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Florida museum gathers Pulse memorial items for preservation

Many items archived in a warehouse at The Orange County Regional Center in Orlando.
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A family in Florida is too distraught to travel to the Pulse nightclub to visit the memorials outside the site dedicated to their daughter Deonka Deidra Drayton who was killed that fateful night on June 12.

She was one of the 48 other innocent lives who were lost when a lone gunman walked into the LGBT club and began shooting at the patrons.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Deonka's parents have turned to the warehouse of The Orange County Regional Center in Orlando to get that closure.

The museum is taking care to archive items and effects from Pulse, and invited Deonka's parents to a private viewing. 

“I think it’s very important, what they’re doing,” said the victim’s father Shepherd Drayton Sr.

Already the museum has collected over 3,500 memorial items, including special offerings placed in front of the club as well as things inside.

Some of these items were specific to his daughter, especially a hand-made wooden cross crafted by a Illinois artist who created 49 of them, each representing a victim. 

"Being a man of faith, I saw that cross and thought of all the good people who wrote on it or who left flowers or left notes or other things," her father told the Sentinel. "It was deeply moving to us as a family to feel that support, that love for our daughter."

Once a week, museum employees convene at the ever-growing memorial site to gather offerings laid down by the public to honor the lives lost.

Museum curator Pam Schartz says that pilgrimage to the site has become an event in and of itself, and that community support has made it a community fixture.  

"It's kind of a remarkable thing," said Schwartz.

The museum team has already gathered a multitude of stuffed animals, poems, and special offerings to include in their stock.

"It's hard to say what we're going to end up with here," Schwartz said amid the myriad of items her staff has retrieved.  

There are no immediate plans to create an exhibit with all of the items, however some may be used in an LGBT tribute the museum has planned for the future.

The collection also includes items that were located inside Pulse, such as a bullet-riddled gender neutral bathroom door, where victims attempted to hide.

Curators have also asked to preserve the shoes Dr. Joshua Corsa was wearing that night as victims were being triaged through the hospital.

Corsa, an Orlando Regional Medical Center surgical resident said he would not take off his shoes until every last one of his 54 patients went home went home: one remains.

Museum staff also have the task of removing dirt and debris from some of the items and meticulously cataloguing them.

Another significant item that they have acquired is a sink that some patrons used to step upon and escape through a window.

"It's not just a sink, it was a way out," Schwartz said to The Sentinel.   

On October 1, the museum is hosting an LGBT exhibit that was scheduled before the Orlando shootings, Schwartz says that some of the items they have collected will be included in that display.

Michael Perkins, manager of the center's museum, says they are trying to preserve the items for generations to come, but now is not the right time to make a full exhibit of them.

"It's still too soon," he said.

You can watch a video about the museum efforts HERE