The Festival Must Go On: How the Reher Center Went Online Amid COVID-19 Spread
While I researched my internship before applying, I had seen that the Reher Center hosts a big event every year called the Kingston Multicultural Festival. I instantly knew that I would somehow take part in its preparations since the event was – originally – planned to happen in April. But before that, I had some other projects to work on. Sarah Litvin, the director of the Reher Center for Immigrant History and Culture, had asked me to help her with the transcription of a few interviews she did with immigrants who turned their skills in sewing into their livelihoods. I was told that such a job would be my main one for the semester since there were a lot of interviews and some of them had Spanish in them that other people could not transcribe.
These transcriptions were going to be used during an exhibition regarding the sewing industry in Kingston, with people going to the Reher Center and looking at different artifacts loaned to us from the creators themselves. Sewing in Kingston, the name of the exhibition, and the Kingston Multicultural Festival might have been pushed back, but those transcriptions were still needed since Sarah did not only think of a way to make the festival happen but also on how to incorporate parts of the exhibition into this online version of the festival.
For the past few weeks, I have been working alongside Sarah and other staff members to make the festival happen. A website is underway to take the Kingston Multicultural Festival online by providing the community with an online portal to the various parts that the physical event would have had. Through the website, which will be linked to the Reher Center’s official webpage (https://www.rehercenter.org), people will be able to easily move through the online exhibitions – a collaboration between performance groups, other local cultural groups, and the Reher Center. We have gotten in contact with dance groups and other related arts performance groups so they can send us visual content of their arts (videos). Aside from this, there will be exhibitions of artifacts that represent their respective cultural backgrounds, with the owners explaining the purpose of each one. We have also been in contact with several local restaurants to deliver food to the households that want to make the Multicultural Festival feel more in-person, each restaurant representing a different culture and or country. The audience will have access to a list of these restaurants so they can choose where to order from. Furthermore, to make things more welcoming and inclusive, there will be ways to allow younger audiences (ex. kids) to roam through the website by hosting a scavenging hunt that will encourage the learning and understanding of other cultures. So much effort has gone into making this event happen, helping to promote the idea that our society is highly influenced by different groups, and that each one of them should be shown to the world and celebrated.
With the uncertainty of COVID-19’s future in the US, a lot of important events have moved online. Although the semester is coming to an end, the Kingston Multicultural Festival must go on and I would like to help it get finished, which is why I will continue assisting Sarah until its launching on June 14. As the situation continues to unfold, historians continue to document the happenings, but we are putting somewhat of pause on the documenting part of our jobs and focusing more on making sure that we take advantage of our new “normal,” which will go down in history one way or another.