Staff at Lethbridge’s Galt Museum and Archives say a proactive approach is not often considered when collecting objects that will one day hold historic value and it wants to change that as it collects items to mark the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Where people think of museums and the museum industry as something that has to do with heritage and not necessarily with culture, then they’re not thinking that contemporary objects have historic value in the moment,” said Kevin MacLean, the museum’s collections technician.
The Galt is looking for a full scope of the community’s experience, including testimony, photos and artifacts that personalize the pandemic in southern Alberta.
MacLean said many items associated with the pandemic are made to be thrown away, so the museum’s mission is to collect those items with first-person experience in the moment before the intangible heritage is lost forever.
“Consequently, we have this thing called active collecting, where we are engaging with people because we think it’s important to solicit those things for the collection as it’s happening,” he said.
MacLean adds that the significance attached to an object by its owner is far easier for visitors to connect with than a third-person explanation. One Lethbridge resident lending his voice is Dylan Taylor, who graduated from Lethbridge Collegiate Institute this year.
Knowing that his high school grad year is one for the books, Taylor decided to give several items to the Galt.
“Many people my age have this kind of granular, black-and-white view of the past,” he said.
“I think now has been a really interesting time in that we’re kind of experiencing history right now.”
Taylor has given photos and a testimony to the Galt Museum to preserve that history.
“I think it’s really exciting for young people, especially going back to see someone like themselves represented in history and having a voice and having something to say about the times we’re living in,” Taylor said. “It’s something I’ll remember forever.”
MacLean said active collection involves the museum seeking out and approaching specific items and people, rather than asking for donations. He noted that the Galt is not accepting donations for this project at this time.