As we live through this pandemic, we’re making history.
And one day, curators of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum will want to be able to tell our stories of what our lives looked like during this period of our history.
To do that, current staff are asking for our help.
They want journals, photos, audio or video recordings — anything that can be used to help tell the story of life during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, says assistant curator Shawna Butts.
Living through history at this particular time might not seem so great, and we might think we don’t want to remember it, we just want life to return to normal, says Butts.
But we all have important stories to tell. To be ready for the day when visitors will want to know what this was like, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum has already started collecting, both physical and digital items. Staff, when they’ve been out and about, have been taking their own photos as reminders of how things changed, but they have a long way to go to be able to stage exhibits.
“We want the everyday stories,” says Butts. “And we want to make sure people save their mementos, their videos, or share an oral history over Zoom to keep for the future. We hear people say, ‘you don’t want my story.’ We do. We want to know what people are doing. If they’re making masks, we want a collection of unusual masks. If they’re making sourdough, we want the recipes. We want to know the personal stories of how people are coping. If grandparents are staying at home and can’t see their grandchildren, what are they doing instead? We want to be able to tell as much of an inclusive story as possible.”
We know the pandemic is affecting children of all ages, high school and university students whose lives are very different, says Butts. “We want to know how different it is to be young at this time.”
We also know the pandemic is taking a mental, and physical and emotional toll on people, she says, “and we want to know how they’re getting through this, day by day.”
No story is insignificant, and no two stories will be the same, says Butts, who is hoping people will be inspired to take some time during this stay-at-home order to put something together for the museum, “now, while it’s fresh, while it’s still happening. We won’t be able to build a collection 100 years from now. For history, and the curators of the future, there are so many wonderful stories out there.”
If your business has a sign that becomes irrelevant, don’t throw it out, give it to the museum. If you’re anti-lockdown and you have a lawn sign, when you’re ready to take it down, give it to the museum — it’s part of the story.
If you attended a protest, either about the lockdown, or perhaps the Black Lives Matter protest that occurred during the pandemic, donate your signs or photos, Butts asks. Community art, posters, photos of fenced-off picnic tables or playgrounds, Zoom meeting screenshots, are all part of the story.
“Please don’t throw anything away,” says Butts.
If you have questions about the museum’s collecting, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 905-468-3912.