One of the responsibilities of museums and archives is to chronicle the present for future generations. Lennox and Addington County Museum and Archives in Napanee are doing just that by capturing the current health crisis in a COVID-19 time capsule.
Staff have created a web page that will serve as a tool to gather and curate an on-going exhibition of activities for everyone to experience today and for the curatorial team to preserve for the future.
The web page includes a form where community members can upload their thoughts and creativity. Topics include: Family Life, Acts of Kindness, Work Life, Students at Work, Photos & Artwork, Videos and the Written Word.
Once physical distancing restrictions have eased, the public will be invited to bring in donations for the time capsule itself. Items can include representational objects, photographs, promotional materials, digital reels, artworks and more.
“It won’t be any time soon that we forget the time when the world shut down, but there will be a day when COVID-19 is in our past. We need to be prepared to tell the stories,” stated JoAnne Himmelman, curator at the L&A County Museum & Archives. “We’re looking for videos, images, artwork, stories… Don’t be shy, let us know what is happening in your world. This is for future generations to see.”
JoAnne Himmelman curator of the L& A County Museum and Archives spoke briefly with the Beaver about the time capsule project.
“We officially launched it Friday and we have had a lot of positive feedback and submissions for the capsule. We are all affected differently by it and we hope that we have given enough platforms for people to speak their minds,” stated Himmelman. “ In just a couple of days we have received poems, videos, photos and stories from all age groups. I am so eager to see what continues to come in.”
When asked whether or not the museum or archives has any documentation of the last, comparable pandemic-the 1918 Spanish Flu- Himmelman noted they do have newspaper records from that time, though unfortunately, there was not much else by way of documentation.
“Unfortunately we don’t have an archival fonds or museum objects specifically related to the 1918 Pandemic, but we do have the newspapers from that time in the Archives and that has allowed us to preserve some of the events from those days,” stated Himmelman. “We hope we are being proactive about our collecting about this pandemic now, so in a 100 years when the museum curator is asked this same questions, he/she can say‘yes, we sure do and look at all the stories we have to tell.’”
Himmelman asserts that, so far, they haven’t faced any challenges with the time capsule project. Though, she predicts there could be some who are not quite ready to talk about the current health crisis, as well as those who are simply shy.
“We think the challenge is that people will be shy or that perhaps it’s sensitive and people aren’t ready to talk about things,” said Himmelman. “We hope that everyone realizes that museums and archives collect objectively and that we don’t judge the content of our collections and the stories it tells, we need to tell stories from all angles, and sometimes history isn’t always rosy and sometimes it hurts, makes us sad, angry, and stressed out.”
Himmelman added that she hopes people are honest in their submissions and realize the importance of documenting this event so that future generations can better understand the past.
“Curators and archivists want all the things that make us as humans tick – we are emotional beings and we should be collecting to that, as well as the physical objects we store in our collections, because it’s those things together that bring our exhibits/histories to life,” emphasized Himmelman.