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Indiana Historical Society Begins Building A Coronavirus Collection

The Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis is asking the public to submit videos, photos, recordings, art or writing that will help tell the story of the pandemic.
Indiana Historical Society
The Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis is asking the public to submit videos, photos, recordings, art or writing that will help tell the story of the pandemic.

In Indiana, restaurants and bars are shuttered, schools are closed, and like much of the country, people are being ordered to stay home.

The Indiana Historical Society is trying to document what it's like to live in this time, and have asked the public to help.

"We thought, this is a period of time people are going to study for centuries," says Jody Blankenship, president of the Indiana Historical Society. "And we need to collect the voices of our community right now."

The historical society is asking the public to submit videos, photos, recordings, art or writing that will help tell the story of the pandemic.

The Indiana Historical Society is one of several institutions around the country that has started thinking about recording oral histories or collecting items related to the coronavirus pandemic, an approach known as "rapid-response collecting."

At the Indiana Historical Society, a few hundred submissions have streamed in so far.

Jenny Larson sent a video of her four kids, sitting on the couch after lunchtime, performing a song they wrote, with lyrics such as:

"The social distancing makes us feel sad because we want to see our friends real bad. And now we're staring only at our screens, because we're stuck in this quarantine."

Liberty Bible Church in northwest Indiana submitted a virtual devotional.

Principal Robert Lugo of North Elementary School in Noblesville, Ind., uploaded a video of his decorated car as he prepared to set off on a parade of teachers for students stuck at home.

Indianapolis resident Rafia Khader sent an oral history. In it, she said she is thinking about her parents a lot.

"Instead of my dad checking in on me every weekend, the roles now have reversed," she said. "I'm checking in on them almost daily."

The submissions will join the millions of other documents and artifacts in the historical society's archives.

"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," Blankenship says. "Without everyday people's history, my history, your history, we don't get those nuances that tell the full story."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.