A space for healing and reflection, this exhibition honored the acts of love and compassion that emerged in Isla Vista and on the UC Santa Barbara campus after the tragedy of May 23, 2014. Through photographs of planned and unplanned memorials, artifacts and messages left at spontaneous memorial sites, and documentation of support from around the globe, the exhibition remembered those who died and were injured, and told the story of a community empowered by its own humanity in reacting to a collective loss.
On May 23, 2014 six UCSB undergraduate students were killed, and fourteen other individuals were injured in a crime spree that took place in Isla Vista, the commercial and residential community adjacent to the UCSB campus. In response to these tragic killings, four spontaneous memorial sites were created by friends, family, and community members. In the weeks following the tragedy, the Ad-Hoc Memorial Preservation Committee was formed to collect hundreds of items left at the sites and which are now housed in the Special Research Collections Department of the UCSB Library. The Collection consists of a representative sample of condolence items and records documenting the University’s response to the event; materials are in both digital and physical formats.
A central goal of the project was to directly involve undergraduate students in the processing of the collection. This was done to help the students heal through engaging in heartfelt and meaningful work, and to provide them with hands-on experience practicing public history. During the 2014-2015 school year members of our project team supervised students who processed items into the archive and helped create the one-year memorial exhibit. They engaged in this work as part of a Public History course and through individual internships in the department of Art.
The exhibit was student-run with nearly all of the labor provided by students who earned course credit and a team of volunteers. Family and friends of the victims, faculty, administrators, students, and community members – in all, over 1,800 visitors experienced the exhibit during the ten weeks that it was open. It was the largest exhibit, both in square footage and attendance, in UCSB’s history. In 2016 our project team, both for the archive and exhibit, received the Award of Merit for Leadership in History by the American Association for State and Local History.
The exhibit was located in a building on campus known as the “Old Gym,” or the “Red Barn,” or “Building 479.” It was a gymnasium originally built in the 1940s for servicemen to play basketball in; prior to UCSB existing on this site it was a military base during World War II. Eventually the building was transformed into overflow office space that is used when staff have to be temporarily relocated during construction projects. Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall granted permission for our student organization to use this space under sponsorship of the UCSB Library and the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts.
UCSB is situated on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Chumash people.
For an interactive virtual tour of the 2015 "We Remeber Them" exhibition that utilizes Google Business View, please see the UCSB Library website below: