Disney’s Rainbow Activism

Love notes, T-shirts, drawings and other artifacts made some visitors weep and others smile this week

at the Orange County Regional History Center as they viewed tributes to the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting.

The temporary exhibit, which closes Saturday, features snippets of love, grief and defiance from memorial sites that sprouted in the wake of the June 12, 2016, tragedy.

“I think it’s beautiful, I think it’s amazing,” said Brian Alvear of Tampa, brother of Pulse victim Amanda Alvear. “I wish it was permanent. It’s sad we’re not going to be able to see it year round or go whenever we want.”

Urban sketch artist Thomas Thorspecken painted 110 images of people and events in Orlando as the com
Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel Urban sketch artist Thomas Thorspecken painted 110 images of people and events in Orlando as the community tried to recover from the killings at Pulse. This painting depicts the human angels standing at Pulse during a memorial vigil. Urban sketch artist Thomas Thorspecken painted 110 images of people and events in Orlando as the community tried to recover from the killings at Pulse. This painting depicts the human angels standing at Pulse during a memorial vigil. (Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel)

The exhibit is slated to end because the museum in downtown Orlando is a wedding venue. The center is displaying the Pulse collection in a second-floor room rented for a wedding party.

“We plan our space and timing of everything well over a year in advance,” museum manager Michael Perkins said. “The room this exhibit is in already had different events and such planned for it. I already had contracts for the room.”

Hours for the final day are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

About 1,200 people visited the free Pulse exhibit Monday — a one-day count greater than the total combined attendance for most weeks at the center. Through Thursday, 1,608 people toured the exhibit.

That figure doesn’t include the 600 family members and close friends of Pulse victims who attended private viewings arranged by the museum’s staff.

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An Ikea couch, filled with eulogies and messages to the 49 people killed in the Pulse shooting, is a
Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel An Ikea couch, filled with eulogies and messages to the 49 people killed in the Pulse shooting, is among the more unusual items in the History Center's tribute collection. Among its messages: "Orlando's rainbow towers over any dark cloud that can ever come our way." An Ikea couch, filled with eulogies and messages to the 49 people killed in the Pulse shooting, is among the more unusual items in the History Center's tribute collection. Among its messages: "Orlando's rainbow towers over any dark cloud that can ever come our way." (Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel)

The exhibit, enhanced by muted lighting, includes simple things such as a note by a 5-year-old named Cooper who wrote on a red painted heart: “Are you okay? I will give you a Band-Aid or a present.” Other, more detailed pieces also offer comfort, such as a hand-made quilt featuring photographs of all 49 people who died on “Latin Night” at the LGBT dance club.

Stitched by Roberta Blick, 90, of Ocoee, the quilt is signed by former President Barack Obama, singer Jennifer Lopez, Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda and hundreds of others, including survivors of the shooting.

“It’s the joy of my life, the best thing I ever did,” said Blick, who couldn’t see the exhibit because she is in hospice care. “It gave meaning to this old lady’s life.”

Visitors to the Pulse exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center can view simple as well a
Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel Visitors to the Pulse exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center can view simple as well as intricate signs made to comfort victims' families and survivors of the shooting. Visitors to the Pulse exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center can view simple as well as intricate signs made to comfort victims' families and survivors of the shooting. (Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel)

The exhibition shows a tiny fraction of tributes collected by county archivists from the lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the campus of Orlando Regional Medical Center, Lake Eola Park and the grounds of Pulse.

“It’s very, very sad,” said Olga Gomez, 57, who drove two hours from South Florida to honor the victims, nearly half of whom have family roots in Puerto Rico like she does. “It saddened my heart that some people can still hate so much. ...”

Notes made by children are part of the Pulse collection. Some are simple but touching like this note
Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel Notes made by children are part of the Pulse collection. Some are simple but touching like this note from Cooper, a 5-year-old, who wrote on a painted heart: "Are you okay? I will give you a Band-Aid or a present." Notes made by children are part of the Pulse collection. Some are simple but touching like this note from Cooper, a 5-year-old, who wrote on a painted heart: "Are you okay? I will give you a Band-Aid or a present." (Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel)

While sorrow and grief gripped some visitors at the exhibit, others said they found hope among the artifacts and images.

>Oh my God, seeing our community openly embracing us...rings all the bells!" — LGBTQ activist Nancy Rosado

“Oh my God, seeing our community openly embracing us … rings all the bells,” said gay activist Nancy Rosado, a retired New York City police officer. “Culturally we’re changing for the better.”

The History Center's Pulse collection includes a variety of t-shirts sold to raise money for survivo
Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel The History Center's Pulse collection includes a variety of t-shirts sold to raise money for survivors and the victims' families. Orlando United, OrlandoStrong and Pulse t-shirts popped up everywhere including this one sold at Beefy King, an iconic Orlando restaurant. The History Center's Pulse collection includes a variety of t-shirts sold to raise money for survivors and the victims' families. Orlando United, OrlandoStrong and Pulse t-shirts popped up everywhere including this one sold at Beefy King, an iconic Orlando restaurant. (Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel)

Many visitors accepted a History Center invitation to “write your thoughts” with bright Sharpies on a blank poster pinned to a wall near the exhibit’s exit. The poster will be archived, too, an official said.

“Like a rainbow can create beauty in broken glass, we must create beauty after tragedy,” read a message signed Hannah B. with a red heart.

The Orange County Regional History Center on Central Boulevard in downtown Orlando welcomed 1,200 vi
Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel The Orange County Regional History Center on Central Boulevard in downtown Orlando welcomed 1,200 visitors Monday to see its special, temporary Pulse exhibit. Monday's one-day crowd of 1,200 visitors was greater than attendance for most weeks at the center. The Orange County Regional History Center on Central Boulevard in downtown Orlando welcomed 1,200 visitors Monday to see its special, temporary Pulse exhibit. Monday's one-day crowd of 1,200 visitors was greater than attendance for most weeks at the center. (Stephen Hudak/Orlando Sentinel)

On a typical week, about 340 visitors tour the museum on Central Boulevard to peruse detailed exhibits on on aviation, citrus and the rise of Walt Disney World, tourism and theme parks, Perkins said.

“We’ve had great success, we think, with the One Orlando Collection exhibit this week,” he said. “We’ve received a lot of very positive comments from the community, some good, positive feedback from family members who saw the exhibit.”

Dennis Sillerico and Miles Powers, Orlando transplants now living in L.A., put up a banner they made
Courtesy of Miles Powers Dennis Sillerico and Miles Powers, Orlando transplants now living in L.A., put up a banner they made to honor Pulse, those killed at the club, and survivors. The banner was signed by dozens of people and is part of the History Center's Pulse exhibit. Dennis Sillerico and Miles Powers, Orlando transplants now living in L.A., put up a banner they made to honor Pulse, those killed at the club, and survivors. The banner was signed by dozens of people and is part of the History Center's Pulse exhibit. (Courtesy of Miles Powers)

The displays, some encased in glass, include boxing gloves left at Pulse by gay Puerto Rican fighter Orlando “El Fenomeno” Cruz, who dedicated his championship bout a month after the massacre to Pulse victims. Before the fight started, the ringside bell rang 49 times.

A children's book, a gay fighter's boxing gloves and a ballet slipper are among tributes left at mem
Stephen Hudak A children's book, a gay fighter's boxing gloves and a ballet slipper are among tributes left at memorial sites to help comfort survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting. A children's book, a gay fighter's boxing gloves and a ballet slipper are among tributes left at memorial sites to help comfort survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting. (Stephen Hudak)

Although the special exhibit is closing, a smaller display will remain near the museum exit. Also, artifacts and tributes will remain available for viewing in a growing online gallery.

Perkins said the museum has long-term plans to install a permanent exhibit. Pulse “certainly deserves a place here,” he said.

Stephen Hudak can be reached at 407-650-6361, shudak@orlandosentinel.com or on Twitter @Bearlando.

Source : http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/pulse-orlando-nightclub-shooting/os-history-center-pulse-collection-20170614-story.html

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