Western Archives project looks to collect local experiences of COVID-19 pandemic

Boarded up and temporarily closed, Prince Albert's diner windows send messages of hope and support during the COVID-19 pandemic in London, Ont, on April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mark Spowart

London-area residents are being invited to share their COVID-19-related creations, experiences and stories as part of a project by Western Archives aimed at helping future generations learn about the local impact of the pandemic.

The initiative, COVID-19 in London, Ontario: Capturing the Local Experience, is open to anyone who lives, works or studies in London and Middlesex, including residents, businesses and organizations, archive officials say.

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“We’re archivists, so we think about history being made and how that’ll be captured,” said Leslie Thomas-Smith, an archivist with Archives and Special Collections at Western Libraries.

“It’s a project being done by a number of other archives as well, but we just really wanted to capture it for researchers in the future.”

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The project is collecting pandemic-related material including personal journals, correspondence, photographs, video, business records, social media posts and even local memes.

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“How often is the story told by people like us? Often it’s told by politicians and things like that, but this is our opportunity to say what we think about it and what we’re experiencing,” Smith said.

Those looking to contribute to the collection can upload digital content, like audio, video, or text files, through the Western Archives website. Only content to which the contributor owns the copyright will be accepted.

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For residents who just want to share their experiences, an online questionnaire allows people to share as little or as much as they like.

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“They can answer some… or, like, a few, whatever they want,” Smith said, noting that residents can choose whether they want their submission made public on the project website.

“That can become part of the public archive or it can just be part of the archive that will be looked at in the future, it’s up to them.”

“People can submit anonymously as well.”

Nearly 50 items were already available to be viewed as part of the online collection as of Tuesday afternoon.

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Western Archives is also providing tips for those who are curious about archiving but who may not want to contribute yet.

Under the terms and conditions, users agree to voluntarily “give and bequeath” the submitted content to Western, assign Western all copyright, and understand that the university will have full control over its use, reproduction, display etc.

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London, Ont. family organizes birthday parade for daughter

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