I was recently interviewed by the Toronto Star on this project and why we began to collect stories related to the pandemic almost as soon as it was declared. I directed the reporter to this exhibit and realized that it had been some time since we had added anything new here.
We are quickly approaching the second anniversary of “the new normal” as the world grappled with a pandemic unlike anything we had seen in approximately 100 years. This anniversary got me looking back at this time two years ago when we, as a staff, struggled with what to do for our March Break programs.
Friday, March 13, 2020 was the last day of the “old normal” at the Museum. By the end of that day, we had decided it would be prudent to cancel our March Break programming and hopefully rebook with the partner organizations in the near future. By the time I had returned home from work that day, March Break had been extended by an additional two weeks that turned into at home schooling until the end of the June.
By now there are all sorts of words that are closely tied to the pandemic. Words like pivot, online, and case counts, and phrases such as “I think you are on mute” became a part of our everyday vocabularies here at the Museum. Staff have become comfortable with a wide range of online tools that have helped us bring the Museum and its collections to the public while we were all at home. We have developed online workshops, created online exhibits and perfected our talks over Zoom. The pandemic was a catalyst for us to find new and inventive ways to share the Museum. It wasn’t always smooth – I remember one of my first Zoom talks where my internet just could not handle the whole family online at the same time, but we pushed forward and got it done.
I think the lack of new posts on this project is due, in large part, to pandemic fatigue. We are all tired of the “new normal,” the restrictions and the impacts on our day-to-day lives that have come about because of the virus. It feels like the virus has changed all aspects of life, and to be collecting and writing about it just added to that fatigue. As we are on the cusp of ending restrictions, hopefully this fatigue will lessen and we can look back at our world for the past two years and ensure that we accurately document it for future generations. Hopefully, I will have met my goal of working to collect the items that I wished were available regarding the 1918 pandemic. This online project is a big part of meeting that goal, of collecting the human experience of a worldwide pandemic, for researchers in the future.