Saskatchewan

Community archives capturing life, coping strategies during pandemic in Sask.

The Western Development Museum and University of Saskatchewan are working to preserve this historic time.

The Western Development Museum and University of Saskatchewan are preserving this historic time

Doris Santha shared an image of an empty Saskatoon street with the public community archive with the Western Development Museum. She said it felt surreal to stand in the centre of one of the busiest downtown streets and set up a tripod for the image. (Saskviews/Website)

Future Saskatchewan residents will be able to look back on the COVID-19 era, thanks to community archive projects being done by the Western Development Museum (WDM) and the University of Saskatchewan. 

At the U of S, professors are launching a virtual space where people can upload things that are important to them or have helped them hope during the pandemic. Anyone in Saskatchewan can participate.

"We're all living under some of the same policies but … our communities are shaping our experiences," Professor Erika Dyck said. "We'd like to try and capture some of the diversity." 

Caitlin McDavid shared this photograph taken in Moose Jaw, Sask., on March 28, 2020, with the public Western Development Museum community archive. She said she wanted to spread some positive messages through sidewalk chalk. (Saskviews/Website)

Dyck is a history professor at the University of Saskatchewan and the Canada research chair in the history of medicine. She said she has two hopes for the project: fostering connection and documenting this historical time. 

"We kind of want to get a flavour of all the different experiences that people are having throughout these really strange moments," she said. "Just being able to witness other people's innovative ways of coping, whether that's through writing poetry or getting out." 

Landen Gessell shared an image of his daughter, taken in Saskatoon on March 31, 2020, to the public community archive with the Western Development Museum. He said in the caption that his great-grandmother will turn 100 soon and the photo showed three of five proud generations. (Saskviews.ca/Website)

Dyck said she's influenced by looking back at the 1918 pandemic. She said the majority of people who lived through it aren't alive anymore to share the experience of what it was like. 

"We want to do this for future historians and for students of history," she said. 

Dyck said she is hoping for a variety of perspectives, from young students who are learning at home to people who have had to return to work in person. 

Natasha Dewing shared an image of a reminder from Lloydminster. She said she took it to document how people need to be aware of each other in a space. (Saskviews/Website)

The University of Saskatchewan is also partnered with the WDM on a community archive launched April 15, 2020. 

"The novel coronavirus has already caused an unprecedented crisis — a global shock that will be remembered for many lifetimes to come. You can help to document the impact of the pandemic here," the WDM website reads. 

People can submit photographs showing things like self-isolation, physical distancing, changing ways to work, communication, caring for each other and more.

Dyck said she hopes that, if another pandemic hit in 102 years, people could see beyond the initial panic of a pandemic.

"Maybe this is a bit optimistic, but I would hope that by looking at the archive we can see things beyond the fear and the panic that often or almost invariably accompanies these moments," she said. 

"And I hope that we'll also be able to retain something hopeful and see how communities come together and actually survive and move through these moments together."

Submissions can be made to the University of Saskatchewan community archive at COVID19archive.usask.ca, or the Western Development Museum community archive at saskviews.ca.

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