By Abigail Miller, Archivist at Northumberland County Archives and Museum
Northumberland County Archives and Museum has been officially closed to the public since Thursday, March 12, 2020. Katie and I are fortunate to be able to continue working from home by responding to research requests, continuing preparations to make our collection accessible online, re-developing policies to adapt to our post-COVID19 world, and most pressingly, looking to our community to document history in the making.
It is a humbling experience to be non-essential. Day by day, amidst disruptions to every facet of our personal and professional lives, we learn and relearn what that term means for us. As an institution that strives to be a vital participant in the processes of collecting and interpreting meaning, the unfolding impact of COVID-19 concentrates our sector’s role towards prioritizing people’s present needs and building assurance that our experiences are real, they matter, and we’ll get through this together.
Local photographer, Molly Taylor of Centre Oak Photography tapped into the local zeitgeist when she put out a call on Facebook for those interested in a free, on-your-porch photoshoot. With a little competition to sweeten the deal, the project garnered a very enthusiastic response from participants across Northumberland County. Mike and Erin Noonan of Roseneath were happy to take Molly up on her offer:
“This photo shoot was something that really lifted our spirits and gave us something to look forward to. When Molly was pulling in the driveway my kids could hardly contain their excitement…our place used to have a swinging door. You can see Ella, my daughter on her bike didn’t even have time to put shoes on. In our photo we wanted to capture how our days were being spent…because I know one day we will look back at this memory. My oldest daughter Ava has not stopped baking since being home, Ella has toured all over our property on her bike, Brock is wearing his tractor battery out and Mike and I are just trying to stay sane and enjoy each other’s company over many glasses of vino.”
The emotional resonance of this project is profound. We are very honoured that Molly, with the permission of all participants, will be donating this catalogue of hilariously staged and achingly sincere photographs to Northumberland County Archives and Museum as one representation of Northumberland’s COVID-19 story. The full series can be viewed on Centre Oak Photography’s Facebook page.
We want to encourage everyone to document their COVID-19 experiences. Your first-hand accounts – your impressions, reactions, emotions, coping mechanisms – however mundane or difficult, are valuable. You may find yourself compiling photos, videos, letters, journal entries, signs, art, even dated to-do lists and grocery lists – these materials become touchstones of understanding for our future selves and historians.
If you would like to share your COVID-19 experience you may email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 905-372-3329 x2242, or send mail to 555 Courthouse Rd. Cobourg, ON K9A 5J6. Please provide your name, contact information and your story.
Take care. We’re all in this together.