For decades, many of the objects now on display at the Charlotte Museum of History sat collecting dust, relics of service in the Police Department that someone didn't want forgotten.
Now, organizers at the museum say, those items are artifacts that will give people a peek into what it has meant to be a police officer in Mecklenburg County over the last century.
More than 300 people went through the latest museum exhibit Friday and Saturday. Many have worn badges themselves or know someone who did.
Dianne Patterson worked at a women's prison in Ohio during the 1970s. She read about the exhibit Saturday morning and decided to go with her husband, Tom. She recalled how similar an antique police radio looked to the one she used.
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"I have a soft spot for stuff like this," she said.
Families donated badges and officers' guns, even a meter-maid's uniform. Organizers also contacted retired officers and scoured the Police Department's closets and attics.
"There are things that are important, things people knew not to throw away," said Melissa Treadaway, one of the organizers. "But they didn't know what to do with them."
The oldest piece is a blood-stained badge worn by an officer who was shot during a raid on a bootlegger in 1924. The exhibit profiles the inner workings of different branches of the department: a phone that hostage negotiators threw into homes to contact suspects, a padded suit used by the department's bomb unit, a bayonet used by officers who respond to riots.
But the collection also includes exhibits on modern problems, such as the growing threat of Latino gangs, and 21st-century tools, such as the increasing use of computers to track and respond to crime.
And the exhibit is growing, Treadaway said. At first, she plied retired officers and others to briefly part with their mementos. Not anymore.
"They're coming in more now than they were when I started," Treadaway said. "Every day, I go to work and there's something new on my desk that I don't know what to do with."