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Share Your Story: York County History Center collects COVID-19 experiences

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

York County residents have the chance to be part of history and archive their personal experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic for future scholars to study later.

The York County History Center invites individuals to submit writing, photos, videos or other media representing how the pandemic affected their lives. 

"In the future, people are going to want to know: What was life like during the pandemic?" said Nicole Smith, the center's director of library and archives. "Someday, this is going to be something people are going to want to know more about."

The history center's project kicked off in April and has no end date for new entries.

Individuals can submit their stories by visiting www.yorkhistorycenter.org/ or contacting Smith at 717-848-1587 or nsmith@yorkhistorycenter.org.

The museum got many pieces for new archives over the summer, but new submissions have since slowed down — and Smith said she wants that to change.

Thinking back to the 1918-1920 Spanish flu pandemic, Smith said, there were very few first-hand accounts from individuals who lived through that. 

"We don't always think about our daily lives as being historically important, but we all make history every day," Smith said. "We want to hear everyone's stories."

Smith said one of the most detailed submissions she received was a four-page letter from a mother in York County who gave birth to her baby in April, during Gov. Tom Wolf's stay-at-home order.

The letter detailed the mother's frustrations with very few people being able to see her new baby and celebrate with her.

"She talked about how she felt a little bit cheated at the end of her pregnancy, not being able to celebrate with friends and family," Smith said.

Drawing inspiration to undertake a local archives collection from organizations like the American Association of Museums, Smith said museums across the world are doing similar things.

This isn't the first time the York County History Center has organized a project like this.

The museum has an ongoing monthly project in which veterans are invited to the history center to describe their personal experiences in the military.

Nicole Smith, the director of library & archive, gathers the beginnings of the center's COVID-19 pandemic archive that is being gathered at York County History Center in York City, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. Smith says the center is seeking to collect submissions of personal experiences and photos from residents in order to document this time in history for York County. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Submissions for the history center's COVID-19 project will be archived within the center to be displayed later in an exhibit.

Smith said she hopes the museum can host a physical display in 2021.

"We're here. We're open. We want to hear from people," Smith said. "Maybe (people aren't) ready to talk about it, so we're going to keep this effort up. We're not going to stop collecting."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.