CHARLESTON, SC – Earlier tonight an emotional event was hosted by the College of Charleston to talk about the preservation of the artifacts and memorabilia left outside Mother Emanuel in the wake of the June 17th shooting that left nine people dead.
Tonight, the historian and archivist from Mother Emanuel, Liz Alston, shared some of her haunting memories from the night of the tragedy and explained why preserving these now precious documents is so important.
Alston told the crowd, “I was at home and I got a call from my colleague who said, ‘They are shooting people at your church.’ Reverend Pinckney is there and I kept waiting for him to come out to to calm the crowds but he never came.”
Alston says the night of the Mother Emanuel tragedy, AME churches from around the country and the world began to call her.
“They know that I’m at church all the time, so they asked, ‘Where is Liz?’ Liz was at home crying,” explained Alston.
Ever since June 17th, Alston has been tasked to connect historians and archivists preserving Mother Emanuel’s legacy.
Alston told News 2 about the, “Thousands of items, thousands of pictures, thousands of Bibles, thousands of books, thousands of cards and letters,” that have been sent to Mother Emanuel since June.
“There was something pretty fascinating about the gifts that were being left at the church,” said Karen Chandler who is the Director and Associate Professor of the College of Charleston’s Arts Management Program. Chandler helped organize the event, “Keeping the Faith: Preservation and documentation of Mother Emanuel,” on Wednesday evening.
Celeste Wiley of the South Carolina has volunteered with the preservations and said, “To date, we have documented just under 400 quilts and shawls that were sent to the church.”
Meg Moughan is the Records Manager for the City of Charleston and explained, “The challenge for us has been, ‘What do you do with these cards, these letters, these posters, that have been sent from kindergartners up to 90-year-olds that have been left in front of the church?’…It’s sort of an emotional process; first to just work with the materials but also to figure out how to define them. How to create a collection policy on a collection that is still actually growing with every day.”
Right now everything is being stored at the city owned St. Julian Devine Community Center downtown. But the hope is to find a permanent home.
The Smithsonian, the new International African American Museum, and traveling archives in Birmingham Alabama are all working to keep this part of history safe.
Alston told News 2, “I think it would be a sin to disperse of those things without trying to save them for people to see 100 years or 200 years from now.”
Tonight News 2 also asked Alston whether any artifacts from inside the church the night of the shooting would be a part of the archives. Alston said, “Possibly,” but it’s up to the discretion of the church members.