The Austin History Center wants to preserve your experiences, memories and creative responses during the current historic public health crisis. Its archivists do not want you to wait until it’s long over and memories fade, so they have set up an upload system for "The COVID-19 Files: Austin Responds to a Pandemic."
"We recognize that this is an unprecedented period of hardship and loss for so many in Austin," the center’s archivists said in a joint statement. "The longtime Austin businesses are shutting their doors for the first time, signature community events have been canceled, and essential city systems have been strained and ever-changing. We have also witnessed remarkable instances of connection, creativity and solidarity as we strive to keep our Austin communities together. Storytelling and archival documentation can be empowering sources of hope and healing during our most painful times."
The archivists encourage you to keep a journal, write poetry, pen a script, draw or paint, start a video or audio blog or take photographs and videos of community life, the environment or life in quarantine.
You could also upload records from your business that document how it responded to the crisis — including social media graphics, email or mail correspondence and business announcements.
This is no idle gesture to fill up quarantine time. The way that future generations respond to similar crises will be informed by what the history center collects now.
Among the crucial memories, for instance, of the worst pandemic in modern times, the Spanish flu attack of 1918-19, is that it came in three waves. News about it was suppressed by the wartime government during the first wave in early 1918, so it came back with a vengeance in late 1918.
At that point, social distancing was encouraged and the city was put on lockdown for almost a month. That extraordinary gesture was not enough. Spanish flu returned in winter 1919 and additional measures had to be taken.
Austin History Center anticipates preserving and sharing the personal stories of these kinds of developments during this pandemic.