By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
In an attempt to document the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oshawa Museum is asking residents to tell their COVID stories.
The project came about from an archival point of view, according to Oshawa Museum Archivist Jennifer Weymark, and her desire to make sure how the pandemic has unfolded in Oshawa.
“The idea is, when you start looking back, the primary resources and primary sources that really help us to understand the impact of things such as this pandemic on a personal level [is important],” she explains.
It began when Weymark asked the Oshawa Museum staff to begin journaling through the pandemic, and if they would mind doing it in a public format.
“So we created this exhibit, this online journal where we are documenting what is happening to the museum, to the staff, and then put it out to the members of the community and asked if they would work with us to document the impact of the pandemic on [a personal level],” says Weymark.
Since then it’s grown from there and the museum is now collaborating with Empty Cup Media. While Weymark is collecting journals, Empty Cup is collecting video and media.
“We’re going to work together to kind of combine our efforts,” she says. “He’s collecting video… people recording themselves talking, and hopefully all of that will end up here.”
One story Weymark has received so far is from a volunteer at the museum who is also in the archival industry, but is currently out of work.
“He was just talking and recording his thoughts on how the pandemic has actually gotten him a job. He’s currently working at a local grocery store because they are in need,” she says.
For some, the pandemic has impacted them in a different way, in that they have been able to gain employment.
“It’s not an aspect we’re talking about, how suddenly grocery stores and those kinds of things are frontline workers and are essential services, and things that kind of changed our perspective on how we looked at those industries,” she says.
Weymark says she’s been personally writing about trauma and how everyone is going through a traumatic time.
“Oshawa has been hit pretty hard, and then when the gentleman from the Superstore passed away, that really hit hard because at the time my husband was still working and was considered an essential service,” she says. “So, I’m documenting this gentleman who has just died, who is not much older than myself and my husband.”
She notes when she began to collect the stories, she realized a part of it will be about those who died from COVID-19.
“You’re collecting stories while you’re going through these stories at the same time, and it’s challenging,” she says.
She says it’s been difficult at times to keep a level head, and has had to step away to gather her thoughts.
Weymark hopes everyone knows the importance of documenting these experiences.
“In 20, 30, 50 years from now, these personal experiences are going to add to the official record, which is going to look at statistics, and the numbers related to it,” she says. “But when you start adding in these personal accounts, it’s when you humanize and better understand the impact.”