The Archive Lady – Archiving Our COVID-19 Pandemic Memories & Memorabilia

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The Archive Lady shows how to get your COVID-19 pandemic memories down in writing AND preserve memorabilia like face masks!

Thomas in Illinois asks: “The entire world has been through a lot in the past year and a half, and some are still feeling the effects of Covid-19. We all have our own experiences and memories, and we might even have memorabilia that relates to this historic time period. As an archivist, what do you think is the best way to archive our Covid memories and memorabilia?”

Over the past year and a half, I have been asked this question a lot. We have all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, some are still feeling the effects. Many genealogists have been reminded of their ancestors who lived through the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and we wish they had left us their thoughts, memories and even memorabilia. So, how can we archive our memories and memorabilia of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Archive Lady shows how to get your COVID-19 pandemic memories down in writing AND preserve memorabilia like face masks!

Tucson Citizen newspaper, November 6, 2018, Chronicling America

First, I will tell you that there are archives across the United States and in other countries that have been collecting and documenting the experiences, memories, and memorabilia in the area they cover. This includes county archives, university/college archives, historical/genealogical societies, national archives, and museums. These facilities have been cognizant of the historic events that were unfolding before their eyes and knew they needed to collect what they could for archiving for the future.

Let’s start with archiving your COVID-19 memories. First, let me say that some of us have very poignant memories from this time, there are many that have lost loved ones during the pandemic. And others were not affected very much at all by the pandemic. The important focus is recording and preserving these memories—good and bad—so that future generations can know what transpired and how we survived. I know there are some that have been writing down their daily thoughts since the COVID-19 pandemic started and that is a great exercise, but if you have not written a word until now, no worries. Grab a notebook, journal, diary or use a blank word document on your computer and start writing. The first step is to get your memories, thoughts, and reports of what you experienced down on paper.

Let’s start with archiving your COVID-19 memories. First, let me say that some of us have very poignant memories from this time, there are many that have lost loved ones during the pandemic. And others were not affected very much at all by the pandemic. The important focus is recording and preserving these memories—good and bad—so that future generations can know what transpired and how we survived. I know there are some that have been writing down their daily thoughts since the COVID-19 pandemic started and that is a great exercise, but if you have not written a word until now, no worries. Grab a notebook, journal, diary or use a blank word document on your computer and start writing. The first step is to get your memories, thoughts, and reports of what you experienced down on paper.

George Washington Baines, Jr. Diaries 1861-1912, Texas Collection at Baylor University

Once you have recorded your thoughts and memories, you will need to preserve them in such a way that they will survive and endure as a family history legacy. One of the best ways to preserve your stories is to share them with others. Make copies—paper or electronic—and share them to your family members and friends. Even consider sharing them with a local archive that may be collecting COVID-19 stories. Many local university/college archives have ongoing projects to collect first-hand accounts of the recent pandemic experiences.

Once you have documented your memories, why not preserve some of the artifacts that we have all come to know too well during this time? First and foremost, preserve one of the face coverings you used during the pandemic. Maybe you made face masks for your family and friends … great handmade artifacts to preserve. Any item you feel is a symbol or remembrance of this historic event would be something to preserve like a time capsule to help our descendants understand what we endured. The best way to preserve most items is to wrap them in archival tissue paper and put them in an archival box. Then store them in a cool, dark, and dry place. Most importantly, why not put a copy of your stories and memories in the box with the artifacts so it is all together when it gets passed down in the family?

Cloth Face Masks, Digital Collections of the Los Angeles Public Library

Cloth Face Masks, Digital Collections of the Los Angeles Public Library

One hundred or more years from now, our descendants will be talking about the Great COVID-19 Pandemic, just like we talk about the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. Instead of wondering how their ancestors coped with COVID-19, they will have your voice telling them exactly what happened and what you experienced personally.

We lived through an historic time in our world’s history, why not preserve that history for the world to know in the future?

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If you have a question for The Archive Lady, please send them via email and I could use your archival question in an upcoming edition of The Archive Lady column. Melissa Barker, a.k.a. The Archive Lady E-Mail: melissabarker20@hotmail.com


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If you have a question about researching in archives or records preservation for The Archive Lady, send an email with your question to: melissabarker20@hotmail.com

Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation. 

©2021, copyright Melissa Barker. All rights Reserved.