Museum and archives want to document COVID-19 history as it happens in Nanaimo

Nanaimo’s residents have a chance to help the Nanaimo Museum and Nanaimo Community Archives record history as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds.

The organizations are working on a project to collect Nanaimo’s pandemic stories and want submissions from the public to help document the impacts of the coronavirus on the community now so they can be shared with future generations.

Aimee Greenaway, Nanaimo Museum curator, said the museum will add an online form on its website where people can share their their experiences.

“We’ll have a number of questions to try and help guide people in what they have to say and what we’re looking for,” she said. “We’re looking at it as collecting the information now while a lot of the things that are happening are really fresh for people.”

The project will also collect and digitize accounts from news media, businesses and other organizations.

“But it’s the personal stories from people that are so much harder to [get],” Greenaway said. “If you don’t go out and get them, you don’t have them … so that’s really what we’re going for.”

She said the project wishes to represent the experiences of many different people in the community. Submissions can include written accounts, photos and even audio and video recordings.

“People can tell their stories and then they can attach a photo, so it could be a family in a house with purple hearts on the window and they’re playing a board game. Whatever people think is a significant experience to them,” Greenaway said.

She hopes to also have a section in the online form for people to include their suggestions for artifacts, such as samples of the pulp made at Harmac Pacific that is used in the manufacture of surgical masks and gowns, parts fabricated at VMAC for prototype ventilators in the U.S., or hand sanitizer made at Arbutus Distillery.

Museum and community archives staff are also documenting the effects of the pandemic photographically and through interviews and in the fall, the museum will build a display from pandemic-related information and artifacts to reflect what the community’s experience has been throughout the pandemic and how residents and businesses have adapted to living with coronavirus restrictions.

“There is considerable urgency to record and preserve what’s going on in Nanaimo right now,” said Christine Meutzner, Nanaimo Community Archives manager, in a press release. “This is our chance to capture how Nanaimoites are responding and adapting to a global crisis as it is unfolding. We are proud to partner with the Nanaimo Museum on what may be the most important material we, as organizations, ever collect.”

The organizations started collecting stories on the museum website at the week of April 27 and the project will remain open indefinitely.

“The project will remain open because we don’t know long this situation is going to last, so we wanted to be able to gather stories and get in as much as possible,” Greenaway said.

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