Atlanta History Center asks residents to save, donate materials about coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is a disaster that will be long remembered — and the Atlanta History Center is asking area residents, business owners and others to start preserving items now for posterity’s historical record.

In a new initiative called the “Corona Collective,” the Buckhead-based museum is seeking stories and materials of various types that preserve experiences of this desperate and challenging time. That includes physical items, though the History Center will not accept them during social distancing measures.

“Contemporary collecting is basically predicting the future, and someone in the future I’m sure will wish we had thought of something to save right now,” said Sheffield Hale, the History Center’s president and CEO,’ in a written statement. “A great example are artifacts from the Spanish Flu pandemic in Atlanta [in 1918-1919]; there were similar restrictions then, but few artifacts representing that.”

On the History Center’s website, Collections Manager Erica Hague gave an overview of the effort. “We are living through historic times—times that we need your help to document,” she wrote. “At Atlanta History Center, it is our mission to preserve and interpret the history of the greater Atlanta area for future generations—and we’re reaching out to you for help.

“… Though you may not realize it, you’re already documenting this time of constant change. You create the historic record when you take a photo of something that makes you feel more connected while self-isolating. Maybe you’ve seen a sign, received an email, or in some other way have connected with the rapidly changing world in the wake of [the] coronavirus. Perhaps it was the empty toilet paper aisle at Kroger, a furlough notice, the cancellation of a planned trip, emails from your child’s school, or a note to an at-risk loved one. Maybe it’s the receipt for a donation you made to support a local small business or essential employee.”

Hale noted that commonplace items can be valuable now, because they are often lost in the long run, not preserved because they were seen as not special at the time. “That which is most common shall be least common,” he said, citing a common phrase in the History Center’s Civil War collecting.

The History Center will consider materials from residents of cities in the immediate metro Atlanta area, including Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Residents of other areas will be directed to local historical societies elsewhere, said spokesperson Howard Pousner.

The History Center’s website already contains staff photos of some scenes and artifacts, including the recent “Wash for ATL” fundraiser artwork.

The website includes details about types of materials will be accepted, copyright and other usage rights, and other information about the “Corona Collective.”

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