The Cincinnati Museum Center began collecting stories, poems, memorabilia, and artifacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020. As more and more people receive the vaccine, the museum still wants to hear how the past year affected people across the tri-state.
As WVXU reported, Pandemic Stories: Greater Cincinnati and the 2020 COVID-19 Crisis aims to collect and preserve details about “our community’s progress through intense upheaval and toward a potentially new normal”. People are encouraged to donate memories, stories, diaries, and more.
“The response wasn’t great, but I think what we got was very thoughtful and interesting,” says Christine Engels, archive manager, adding that the majority of the donations so far have been poetry.
“Everyone I tell this to gets a little bit surprised, but I think if we all have a little more time and there are such unprecedented circumstances, maybe people will be inspired to be a little more creative.”
Jeniquine Avery submitted the poem, “Peace in the Pandemic,” which she wrote as a senior at Aiken High School, 2020 class. It contains this excerpt:
Everyone’s scared, but I’m not.
Everyone is nervous, but I am calm.
People believe the world is going to end.
I know it will restart.
Or I should say I hope it will restart.
Engels says the collection includes photographs that show how things or places changed during the pandemic. There are also face shields, face masks, and patterns that are used to make homemade face coverings and other ephemera.
She knows she’ll have to wait a little longer for the articles she looks forward to most: magazines.
“Of course we don’t want anyone to donate yet,” she says. “I am very hopeful that people at home will scribble or type and keep that because, as you know, we are nowhere near (the pandemic) that is just over.”
Once magazines – and other items – are donated, they become part of the museum’s collection, preserving the past and providing valuable materials for future researchers.
Part of the initiative for the project came from an exhibition on the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, which ended around the time the coronavirus pandemic hit. Engels noted that the museum’s collection from the previous epidemic wasn’t as extensive as she expected. In particular, there was a lack of personal reports on how people felt and what experiences they had made from this time.
“There wasn’t much about how they felt about it in diaries or letters, so I thought we could put that in people’s heads now, so many years later people will know what people think about and how they feel “she said explained.
“Record your thoughts,” she encourages. “This is a strange time, people will want to know what you were thinking.”