PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- A fence in Prescott held 900 flags, 1100 t-shirts, boots, paintings, and children's drawings. People from around the world brought them or sent them to Fire Station 7 after the deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in the Yarnell Hill wildfire.
"Really, the emotion from all over the world," said Dottie Morris. "This was the loss they all felt, not just the Prescott community."
These expressions of shared grief filled the fence at the Hotshots' home station. Morris and other volunteers knew they couldn't stay there forever, but everyone wanted them saved.
So, on a rainy day in September, a few dozen volunteers carefully documented the location of each item and took them away for preservation.
"Each item was dried -- not washed -- dried carefully, the mud was taken off," Morris said. "Items were frozen, because we had items with bug larvae, we had black widows crawling out of t-shirts, we had black widows crawling out of stuffed toys."
This preservation eventually led to the Tribute Fence Preservation Project, part of an online database known as the Arizona Memory Project.
Everything preserved in the room has a story, which can now be experienced and understood by virtual visitors from around the world. For example, two paintings were painted by a local man who happens to be a quadriplegic. He paints with his shoulder. Not only can people see his images online, people can learn the paintings' story.
More than 500 pictures are now part of the Arizona Memory Project.
"This is one of the neat features of this site," said Prescott Library Manager, Martha Baden as she showed pictures of t-shirts. "You can see the front of it, the back of it."
Baden worked with the volunteers after they photographed and logged everything they knew about each item.
"From our point of view, this makes all that accessible to people who would never be able to read these letters, and understand the connection with fire fighting communities around the world," Baden said.
Along with the pictures of flags and t-shirts, they have hundreds of letters to scan. Some are personal, some from governments of foreign lands. Volunteers have categorized the letters and placed them in large binders for preservation.
"I think this was something we had to save," Morris said. "This is our community history and history of what happened here."
There are more than 500 pictures online now. To view them and learn more, visit the Arizona Memory Project website.