In enduring this global health care crisis, the future we’re all looking forward to is one without the frightening prospect of severe illness and death.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to alter our behavior. Lockdown orders and mandates for social distancing determine the extent of our interaction with each other.
We anticipate the day when these restrictions will be eased or lifted entirely. This experience has exposed the weaknesses of key aspects of our social structure, and we must find ways to improve them.
Learning how to live better in the years ahead requires a good understanding of what we’re going through now. And as much as many people don’t enjoy contemplating the daily ordeals, it’s important for them to document these highs and lows for posterity.
The Association of Public Historians of New York State has asked its members to record as much as they can about how people are handling the challenges posed by the pandemic. Historians gain valuable insights when they read accounts of obstacles being overcome, so what we preserve today will be of great interest to future generations tomorrow.
“I already had the idea to document something about the pandemic because too much local history has been lost on events like the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak, the Depression, Prohibition, etc.,” Timothy S. Minnick, historian for the town of Theresa, said in a story published April 17 by the Watertown Daily Times. “We know these events happened historically, but not seeing the local impact detaches us and leaves us much to wonder about.”
Those who document history for communities in the GLOW region have a vital role to play in preserving this story for future examination.
“Sharing suggestions from the association, Clayton town and village historian Thomas LaClair is asking community members to take note of events by keeping journals about how the pandemic is affecting them personally, as well as their businesses, churches, schools, support for the elderly, etc.,” the article reported. “Residents should document specific dates and numbers, from the days schools closed and opened to how church leaders attended to the need of their congregations. A formal call will be made later for such observations and the material will be used for historical purposes. Also, the association has developed a form that historians can use to collect stories from throughout New York state. Once the crisis and the collecting period have ended, APHNYS will share the responses with historians throughout the state.”
The APHNYS website advises historians to record their memories of local events since the beginning of March and encourage members of the public to do the same. They should take or collect photographs to show how communities are responding to the crisis.
APHNYS also asked its members to collect news reports, social media posts, letters, fliers, posters and government directives pertaining to the pandemic and how people are helping each other. Historians are urged to record interviews with community leaders, first-responders, business owners, public officials and health care personnel about their experiences.
“Government-appointed historians have a duty under New York State Law to document these sorts of episodes,” the association declares on its website. “We are unquestionably within a historical moment that will be of great interest to future generations.”
We commend APHNYS for considering how much we’ll learn from what we go through today. Residents are urged to participate in this history project in any way they can.