The Museum of Incomplete: Why I'm Collecting Symbols of Lives Cut Short by Gun Violence | Opinion

Every day in the United States, we lose around 100 people to gun violence. When we see that statistic in writing, it's hard to grasp what it really means—100 people. That's almost one person killed every 15 minutes, every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What we often fail to fully realize is that these people aren't just numbers. They're parents and children, friends and coworkers. And when they are killed by gun violence, they leave their entire lives unfinished. Their hopes, dreams, ambitions, promises, projects, and goals are left behind.

The Museum of Incomplete is here to honor these people and pay respect to the things they were never able to complete. Instead of just being statistics, these victims will become powerful forces for change.

In my case, I submitted my son Joaquin's basketball shoes. Before he was murdered, he wanted me to coach his basketball team. Unfortunately, he was never able to finish the season. But our team went on to win the championship with my beautiful son's powerful energy empowering every single player. For me, his shoes represent the basketball season he was never able to finish the way he wanted.

This museum is not limited to the people in Parkland, although we will have some submissions from our community. Gun violence has become so common that we often know the places it happened by name. Vegas. Orlando. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Sutherland Springs. Columbine. Parkland. While mass shootings receive the most media coverage, they are not the only source of gun violence in this country. That's why the museum is open to any and all victims of gun violence.

Anyone who has been affected or knows someone affected by gun violence can submit to the Museum of Incomplete. Anything that represents incompleteness can be featured in our gallery, whether it's physical or not. It could be the graduation robe that was never worn, or a screenshot from a text message thread from a friend who was killed. It could be a picture of a place a victim never got to visit, or a rough draft of a book that was never written. If it represents incompleteness in any way, we encourage people to submit it.

Every submission will be housed in our digital gallery at We will also be creating a physical museum to showcase submissions. We are currently looking for the perfect partner to help us with space and exhibit curation. Extending the museum beyond our digital gallery and into the physical world is extremely important to us. When you see all the submissions, all the victims' incomplete dreams, ambitions, goals, and experiences in a physical space, it feels that much more real. There's no ignoring the victims when their incomplete lives are right in front of you. These are the actual lives of people who have been taken from us. These people have friends or children or parents or loved ones who will have to spend the rest of their time on Earth with a piece missing from their lives.

We encourage anyone who has lost someone to gun violence to offer their submissions at our website, to help us honor our loved ones and their incomplete lives. Our museum, and all the victims we will honor with it, cannot be ignored. There is so much we still need to change about our nation's gun legislation, and the Museum of Incomplete will help show this country how many of our loved ones are being taken from us due to senseless gun violence that is a direct result of our gun laws.

Manuel Oliver is the father of Joaquin "Guac" Oliver, who was murdered in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. He is an artist, a creative director and a gun control campaigner.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​