Region of Waterloo museums want your help documenting COVID-19 history

The Region of Waterloo museums archives and libraries are asking people for their help writing the history of COVID-19, as it happens in real time. 

Personal stories, hand-written journal entries, photographs and signs are all wanted

Dianne DesRoches, left, and her daughter Mikella DesRoches, right, display a sign they put on their home paying tribute to the essential workers carrying on during the COVID 19 crisis. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

The Region of Waterloo museums, archives and libraries are asking people for their help writing the history of COVID-19, as it happens in real time. 

From the seemingly mundane details of what it's like to grocery shop right now to the stress of self-isolation and physical distancing, they hope to hear it all, said Stacy McLennan, Collections Curator and Registrar at Region of Waterloo Museums. 

"Personal stories, hand-written journal entries would be wonderful, photographs from your local neighbourhood — anything that will help us document this time in our community and the impact that it's having," said McLennan. 

It could even be signs that the kids have made to hang in the window to show support to healthcare workers. 

"Once the pandemic crisis ends, a lot of people would think: 'Well that's just garbage now, we don't want that.' But that's something we're trying to ask people to save for us, so that when it's safe to do so we can actually collect those physical items as well." 

McLennan says their preference is physical copies, over digital media, which tends to be harder to preserve as formats change.

Part of permanent archives

 "Stories are powerful. We share stories to make sense of the world around us, to learn from our experiences and to help make plans for the future," said Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman on Wednesday. 

And, she said, these kinds of personal accounts are something the region really doesn't have from the Spanish Flu in 1917. Having them for the COVID-19 pandemic will influence how future generations empathize with this historic event, said McLennan.

"People really want to have a personal connection to someone in the past, and it's that personal story and the humanity of it that people can connect to. So that helps us in the future when we're developing exhibits."

They're hoping to have accounts from the full length of the pandemic — however long that lasts, said McLennan. 

When physical distancing measures have been lifted and it's safe to do so, staff will make arrangements to pick up the would-be archives, which will become part of the Region of Waterloo's archives and, eventually, a permanent collection.

With files from the CBC's Julianne Hazlewood