LEWISTON — A small room at the Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning and Labor — Maine MILL, for short — contains a heart-wrenching exhibit of Lewiston’s darkest day.

On one pedestal sit four tiny white statues of hands forming the “I Love You” sign used by the deaf community, created in the aftermath of the Oct. 25, 2023, mass shooting by artists Rick and Rebecca Szynkowski, and originally placed beside makeshift memorials honoring the slain.

Another holds a bowling pin with the first names of the dead.

On the walls surrounding them are signs scrawled or printed in the aftermath of the shooting that claimed 18 lives at Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant on Lincoln Street and the bowling alley at Just-In-Time Recreation on Mollison Way.

Maine MILL Executive Director Rachel Ferrante pauses Monday afternoon in a special room at the Maine MILL in the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston. The space is dedicated to Lewiston’s darkest day, the Oct. 25, 2023, when 18 people were killed in a mass shooting. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Maine MILL Executive Director Rachel Ferrante said the exhibit aims to capture “a huge variety of emotions and feeling.”

“We wanted people to experience the love and community that came together” as well as the “overwhelming sadness” of the awful event, she said.


The items on display, a fraction of those collected, are contained in a small room attached to the main exhibit room at the museum in an old mill on Canal Street.

But they pack a punch.

One of four tiny white statues of hands forming the “I Love You’ sign used by the deaf community sits on a pedestal Monday in the Maine MILL in the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

For the people who see them, Ferrante said, “the emotions run the gamut.”

“It’s still very new and raw,” she said, “and I think what’s in this room reflects that.”

The museum scooped up about a thousand items from temporary memorials outside the bowling alley, Schemengees and Raymond Park at 49 Main St., as well as a few signs posted on trees along Lisbon Street.

It even kept 10 pumpkins from among the 900 or so that lined Mollison Way after the shooting. Ferrante said they were scanned so that a 3D printer can create exact replicas that won’t rot over the years.


The idea of all of it is to preserve items that capture “what happened that night” and, at least as important, the outpouring of sympathy and community that followed.

Some of the items are tiny — there are hundreds of votive candles, for example — but some are huge, including a stuffed moose that JoAnn Vega found on the side of the road in Liberty, stuffed into the back of her car and placed outside the bowling alley with a Lewiston Strong sign attached to it.

That moose is slumped in the corner of the exhibit room.

“The moose is pretty great because of its size,” Ferrante said.

Bega sent an email explaining that she put it among the array of items outside the bowling alley because “I felt compelled to do something good.”

Not everybody is ready to eyeball the collection, Ferrante said.


Items left at memorials from Lewiston’s darkest day are displayed Monday at the Maine MILL in the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston. The room, adjacent to the main exhibit room at the museum, is filled with tributes from the memorials or sent to the museum after the Oct. 25, 2023, mass shooting that killed 18 people. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal


But for her, making sure the items are saved is crucial.

“We’re the community history museum,” Ferrante said. “This is the most important thing to happen in the last 50 years.”

After the shootings, she said, “Everybody tried to step up and do their part. We were the same.”

Beyond that, though, she said the Maine MILL has an extensive collection and a record of preserving hundreds of oral histories.

She said the museum plans to begin collecting oral histories related to the mass shooting soon. Tied to them will be the stories about the items themselves, to whatever degree they can be learned, Ferrante said.

Ultimately, the collection related to the shooting will have dedicated space in the new museum at 1 Beech St., which is slated to open in 2026.

The exhibit can be viewed when the museum is open, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Ferrante said anyone who wants to see it can view it for free, but she encouraged people to see the entire museum, where admission is $5; $4 for seniors and students.

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