THE NATIONAL BUILDING MUSEUM IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED.

Gun Violence Memorial Project

Memorials are works of art and architecture that embody collective experience and provide a space for remembrance. Presented in conjunction with Justice is Beauty: The Work of MASS Design Group, the Gun Violence Memorial Project is a tribute to the thousands of lives lost to gun violence in America. The Memorial features four houses comprising 700 glass bricks each, a number that represents the average number of lives taken by gun violence each week across the country.

“Our goal was to communicate the enormity of the epidemic while also honoring the individuals whose lives have been taken. The recognizable form of the wood lattice and glass houses are but the framework in which the more intimate narrative is shared; the memorial is the willingness of families to share personal artifacts and stories of their loved ones.” —Jha D. Williams, MASS Design Group

The National Building Museum is the Gun Violence Memorial Project’s second installation; it was first installed as part of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The Memorial was conceived by MASS Design Group and conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas in partnership with gun violence prevention organizations Purpose Over Pain and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. Inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the hope is to create a permanent national memorial that honors the lives and narratives of victims of gun violence, using the current design as a prototype.

From September 2019 through March 2020, the Memorial team held in-person collection events and mail-in campaigns to provide an opportunity for families to contribute remembrance objects. The items were placed inside each brick, with the name and life dates of the person being honored. In total, many of the 2,800 bricks hold items such as family photographs, baby shoes, high school graduation tassels, jewelry, a favorite Double Dutch jump rope, and a prayer book. Collection events for additional objects will continue in the future.

Also featured within the gallery are video excerpts from Comes the Light, a forthcoming documentary about the effects of gun violence produced by Caryn Capotosto and directed by Haroula Rose. Interviews filmed in Washington, D.C., and Chicago capture stories about lives cut short and the objects chosen to represent them within the Memorial.

“Gun violence is an epidemic that touches every community in our country. We are honored that the Gun Violence Memorial Project will be displayed in our historic building, where we know visitors will experience firsthand the power of design to encourage reflection, recollection, and healing.” —Chase Rynd, Executive Director Emeritus, National Building Museum

Both on-site and virtually, visitors can honor many of the lives reflected in the Gun Violence Memorial Project by exploring Moments That Survive, a digital storytelling campaign in which survivors share how their lives changed forever as a result of gun violence. Moments That Survive builds community among survivors and helps the public understand the many repercussions of gun violence. Twenty-five objects included in the Memorial are also commemorated in the online Moments That Survive Memory Wall. The installation concludes with a space of reflection and a call to action, offering visitors takeaway cards with information about local resources for survivors and allies.

Free for visitors with the generous support of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the Gun Violence Memorial Project is located on the ground floor next to the Museum Shop.

Sponsors

The Gun Violence Memorial Project installation is made possible by:

Project Partners: MASS Design Group; Songha & Company; Purpose Over Pain

Additional Community Partners include: Change the Ref; Louis D. Brown Peace Institute; Newtown Action Alliance; Purpose 4 My Pain; Jared’s Heart of Success; Moms Bonded By Grief; Philadelphia Ceasefire; RJT Foundation; The Akilah Dasilva Foundation; Mothers Fighting for Justice; States United to Prevent Gun Violence; Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Helping Hands Inc.; Center for American Progress; and The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

 

Support for the Gun Violence Memorial Project installation at the National Building Museum provided by Crystal and Chris Sacca, The Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Hasten Foundation, Koogle Foundation, Ravenswood Studio, Anonymous.

Additional support provided by John Means and Rebecca Ballard, Robert Holleyman and Bill J. Keller, McInturff Architects, and Arentz Landscape Architects, LLC.