The Indiana Historical Society’s Response to COVID-19
In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Indiana Historical Society is making an effort to document first hand experiences of the outbreak and quarantine life from people across the country. The Indiana Historical Society is taking part in what is considered rapid-response collecting, which consists of them documenting oral histories, as well as personal items from right now. These personal items vary, whether it be specially designed face masks, or even signs or banners that families have made to show their appreciation to all those working on the front lines. All of this is being done to help future generations understand firsthand what living through the Coronavirus outbreak was like. Jody Blankenship, the president of the Indiana Historical Society, gave her rationale by saying: “We thought, this is a period people are going to study for centuries… And we need to collect the voices of our community right now.”
This organization I believe is doing a fantastic job of showcasing the various voices of the country and our struggles in this time. As I have been transcribing the diary of Innis Young of Poughkeepsie from 1916 recently at my internship at Locust Grove Estate, it has helped me to understand why this project is meaningful. While Young does not always spend a lot of time talking about the world around him, when he does mention his and or the public’s reactions to events taking place in World War I, it show that works like his are essential in helping historians now understand such a monumental time in human history. The same can be said for our current situation, and the project the Indiana Historical Society is undergoing. Dozens or perhaps even hundreds of years from now, people will be able to look back at sources such as theirs to help them understand the gravity of the situation, and the atmosphere surrounding it.
Blankenship puts it very well as she elaborated on their mission: “It’s the aggregation of all these individual stories and experiences that create this very rich narrative that tells us who we are and what we value. Without everyday people’s history, my history, your history, we don’t get those nuances that tell the full story.” And that shows why this is important. Without resources like these, all people will have to look back on are the statistics, which are filled with doom and gloom. But stories help to show the beauty of humanity, and the collective spirit that we have taken in saying that we are not alone.
1 Gringlas, Sam. “Indiana Historical Society Begins Building A Coronavirus Collection.” NPR. NPR, April 10, 2020. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/10/831709294/indiana-historical-society-begins-building-a-coronavirus-collection.