When you look back at the COVID-19 pandemic in the future what will you tell your great-grandchildren? Clarington Museums and Archives in Bowmanville hope to gather personal memories of people who have had to deal with the pandemic in the midst of the famine for future generations. To capture the spirit of this historic event, Clarington Museums and Archives has launched a public survey for the purpose of collecting stories and information about people’s personal experiences to be documented for historical purposes.
Clarington Museums and Archives CEO Linda Kent said in the launch announcement that we are living in unprecedented times. It is important to record residents’ and business owners’ experiences so future generations can look back on how COVID-19 affected Bowmanville.
Historians used to gather information from letters or examine personal diaries or journals written during a particular event. Mass Observation project members asked residents in Britain during World War II to keep letters, diaries, and to fill out questionnaires about their daily lives. Today, the written records of that archive are a public resource used for historical research which offers an insight into the daily lives of troops on the front lines and at home.
“They asked ordinary people to write journals and document what they knew would be a critical time,” Kent said.
As a result of the history-making pandemic, people are today able to share their experiences on a daily basis by means of phone calls, text messages and video conferencing with their friends and family. Staff at the Clarington Museums and Archives are concerned that, as a result, very few written records will likely survive for future generations.
As Kent noted, compared to the generations before us, our generation relies so heavily on technology, so little documentation of everyday life is available. Participants in the museum’s history survey can be found on its website at claringtonmuseums.com. The museum is asking all residents, businesses and organizations to participate.
“Historians do not only study politics and governments but also everyday people. People’s feelings and thoughts give history its colour. History is more than events that happen to a group, it’s about how people feel and think about it,” said Kent. “It keeps generations connected.”
Questions range from “How does an average day at home look like?” to “How would you describe an ideal day in isolation?” to “What are you most looking forward to afterward?” Additionally, it includes a feature for sending a message to front-line employees. As residents share their thoughts, feelings, messages of gratitude and sorrow, and general reflections, they can help connect the history of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the words of Kent, “history isn’t just about large waves rolling over us, but about individual events,” and “people do things in history.” “Everybody’s experience is important to us.”
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