Reflections: How Will We Remember the Coronavirus Pandemic?


Like any major newsworthy event throughout history, we tend to recall the moments and details of where we were, what we were doing, or how old we were when the unexpected happened.  (Think back to 9/11 – or if you are old enough – where you were when President Kennedy was shot.)

Now, living through a global health pandemic, there is a sense that we’re all in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime historical event. Years from now, what will we teach kids about COVID-19 in school and what stories will we share with our friends? 

Life in 2020 has certainly had its ups and downs, but how will we really remember this unprecedented event in our lifetimes?  Further, if you had to capture this year in 5 artifacts, what would you choose?  Hand sanitizer?  Newspaper clippings? 

Will museums include exhibits of this COVID-19 blip in time?

It’s a real possibility.

The Autry Museum of the American West is among the growing number of museums across the country that have begun recording this moment.

“Museums have a responsibility to meet history head-on,” explains Tyree Boyd-Pates, an Autry Museum curator.

Professor at U.C.L.A., Brenda Stevenson, suggests that museums display “oral accounts, TikTok shorts, newspaper accounts, hospital and emergency medical workers’ testimony, and data from Johns Hopkins and the C.D.C.

She says, “Collections should include hospital beds, and even unemployment records and conspiracy theories, she added, which all help “better understand this event and explain it to future audiences.”

While museums will collectively offer people a look back at the COVID-19 pandemic through artifacts and other collections, when asked what he would remember, Thomas Kane, a private wealth manager from Chicago says, “The hope is that we will remember the outpouring of generosity and goodwill we witnessed from our fellow Americans.” 

Chicago’s Thomas Kane goes on to say  “While it is nearly impossible to forget about the negative aspects of a tragedy, we can only hope that the positives far outweigh the bad and that we continue to learn valuable lessons along the way.”

And there have been so many positives.

From neighbors helping neighbors to drive-by birthday parades to food drives, and most importantly, frontline workers putting their own lives on the line to help others, we have seen the ‘good’ in humanity arise on so many occasions.

Take for instance the work being done in Newark, NJ where Newark Working Kitchens has been identifying people in need of healthy meals and partnering with local restaurants to deliver those meals to vulnerable populations.  The organization, like so many others around the country, is stepping up its efforts to help those who need it most.

When we finally get past this pandemic and are able to feel safe once again; there’s no doubt about it, the coronavirus pandemic is going to leave a formative experience in people’s lives, which means it’s going to be talked about on a regular basis well into the future.




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