June 5, 2020

Historians Seek Stories of the Pandemic

By Sarah Hammeke

The COVID -19 pandemic and its impact on society will forever be in the history books as the Missouri Historical Society (MHS) is asking residents of the St. Louis region to share their experiences for documentation.

The MHS, which operates the Missouri History Museum, the MHS Library & Research Center and Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, asks the public to submit written stories or upload a photo or video that illustrates how they are responding to the pandemic via an online form.

“While history is always unfolding around us, it’s rare that we have the realization that we are indeed living through a historic moment. During times like this, it’s important to share stories of our lived experiences,” said MHS director of digital initiatives Angela Dietz.

The stories will be added to a digital archive titled, “Stories of the Pandemic: A St. Louis COVID-19 Digital Archive.” This informal collection of community contributions (digital stories, photos, videos, audio, or scans of documents) will help tell a story of the unfolding global pandemic. The MHS team will curate these stories and share some of the submissions on social media and on its website, mohistory.org. Some of the submissions may be considered for addition to the Missouri Historical Society’s permanent collections.

“Our normal collecting process is a formal one, and it happens at a bit slower pace—as it often takes distance from an event to realize what is important to collect; however, we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to capture stories and images while things were happening…When our curators and archivists are all back in the office and have some more time and perspective, we will be reviewing this material and thinking about how to incorporate it into our permanent collection,” said Dietz.

Submission suggestions include a photo of a sign announcing a business closure, experiences working from home or not being allowed to work from home, ruminations on social distancing or sheltering in place, stories of community engagement and resilience, or experiences with the healthcare system.

“There are no wrong answers or wrong submissions. We are looking for any and all perspectives, whether you’re on the front lines working in the medical field or as an essential employee, or you are one of the countless people just trying to figure out how to work from home, homeschool, and keep up with friends and family while social distancing. We ask for any and all stories,” said Dietz.

“Stories of the Pandemic: A St. Louis COVID-19 Digital Archive” is the first phase in the Missouri Historical Society’s collecting response to COVID-19. In the future, MHS hopes to collect 3-D objects that aid in telling the story of the pandemic.

To contribute to Stories of the Pandemic: A St. Louis COVID-19 Digital Archive visit mohistory.org.

 

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