Museums across Manchester are discussing how best to preserve and share the thousands of messages left on the mural of footballer Marcus Rashford, ahead of their removal on Friday.
The mural, which is displayed on the side of a cafe in Withington, south Manchester, has attracted huge numbers of people since the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy on 11 July and the subsequent racist abuse levied at Rashford and other Black players on the England team.
Members of the public initially covered up racist graffiti on the artwork, but later thousands of people travelled to the spot to leave messages of support, love and solidarity.
With rain forecast this weekend, a team from Manchester Art Gallery and Central Library Archives+ are preparing to remove the messages on 23 July and transport them to the Central Library's archives department for safe-keeping. MA students from the Institute of Cultural Practices at the University of Manchester are standing by, ready to help with collecting the messages and documenting the process.
Wherever possible, messages will be removed individually, but the amount of adhesive tape that has been used to fix tributes to the mural means that in some cases whole sections will have to be lifted and packed on site, and then separated later. They will also be extensively documented and photographed.
Meanwhile, Manchester Art Gallery, Central Library's Archives department, the People's History Museum, the National Football Museum, the University of Manchester, and the Withington Walls project, which first commissioned the mural, have been discussing how best to preserve the tributes – and make them widely available to the public.
Manchester City Council said no decisions have been made on where the messages will eventually be kept: “The priority at this stage is simply to preserve them and protect them from the weather. It is hoped that by preserving the messages they can be made available for education and public display in the future as an important and permanent reminder of just what a significant moment in the city and country's cultural history this has been.”
Rashford, who grew up near Withington and plays for Premier League football club Manchester United, will also be consulted over the future of the messages.
"The support and respect shown for Marcus and his teammates over the last week through the thousands of tributes left at his mural has been amazing and wonderful to see,” said Manchester City Council leader Luthfur Rahman.
"We think it's important this shared moment of solidarity – that started with the placing of just one small message of love on the mural after it was defaced – an action that spoke to the whole country and not just Manchester, is remembered and preserved for future generations.
"We're reaching out to Marcus with some thoughts on how this could be achieved and to ask what he would like to happen to the tributes, to help create a lasting legacy of tolerance, love, and solidarity for future generations to learn from."