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Collecting COVID Memories: Documenting Historic Times Today

We have all made adjustments and sacrifices as we learn to navigate our world amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Loudoun Museum, this has meant closing our doors to the public and increasing our social media presence. Youtube videos, blog posts, and our weekly “History on Tap” Facebook live stream have become our primary vehicles for fulfilling our mission and continuing to serve our community during this time.

For locals, experiences are diverse and evolving. Whether you’re telecommuting, homeschooling, care-taking, or just finding creative ways to maintain social distancing guidelines AND your sanity, you are living through historic times. That means the products of your isolation- the Imagine karaoke videos, the scarf you learned to knit, the homeschool curriculum you created—are all historic artifacts.

As a repository for county history, Loudoun Museum wants to document and preserve your quarantine stories. These experiences—as digital documents, photographs, or physical objects—are evidence of our community’s resilience and creativity during tough times.

“Rapid-Response Collecting” was coined by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2014 as a conscious institutional strategy to collect contemporary history and reflect on current events. This strategy streamlines the formal acquisition process to allow for more spontaneous collecting- which can be especially useful in constantly changing times of crisis.

The New York Historical Society’s History Responds initiative was launched in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001 to collect artifacts documenting the historic tragedy and continues to respond to modern events, including the current pandemic. Similarly, the Smithsonian Institution has conducted real-time collecting during numerous events including Occupy Wall Street and the 2017 Women’s March, and very recently released a statement announcing their efforts to collect objects and ephemera related to the pandemic.

The initiatives to document this historic moment extend globally- public historians in Germany have created the Coronarchiv platform to collect everyday experiences of people today for future historical research. Historic narratives have generally privileged certain demographics and tend to focus on large events and notable people but there is much to be learned from the everyday stories of average people. Coronarchiv aims “to diversify and pluralize the future memory of this present crisis” by providing a space for people to tell their own stories.

This community archive strategy allows museums to stay relevant and document first person accounts of historic events as they occur. It also provides an opportunity for the public to curate their own narrative. By submitting your perspective, you help write into history what we as a community consider important.

Leesburg Farmers Market complies with social distancing guidelines in late March 2020. Photo credit: Town of Leesburg Facebook

So tell us your story! The Loudoun Museum is accepting submissions in the form of personal narratives, photographs, scanned documents, or otherwise digital media for our collection. Due to public health concerns we are unable to take any physical objects at this time- please consider photographing these objects for submission.

Please note that by submitting content to the Loudoun Museum you are agreeing to the terms below:

- You grant the Loudoun Museum non-exclusive (shared), royalty-free license to preserve, modify, and share your content for public research, educational use, exhibits, or publication, including in print and/or online.

- Loudoun Museum reserves the right to remove content that it considers duplicative, inappropriate, or outside the scope of this project. Loudoun Museum is not obligated to include your content in this project or preserve it in perpetuity.

To submit:

* Please only submit content which you own or have created.*

*Loudoun Museum’s mission is to collect history related to Loudoun County specifically- please keep this in mind when considering a submission*

1. Email with the subject line “COVID Community Archive Submission”

2. Include personal information including: Full name, email address, phone number, town/city of residence. (Please note- email addresses and phone numbers are for record keeping purposes and will not be made public)

3. Include as much relevant information as possible when telling your story or explaining your photograph/document/object. Include dates, names, places, etc. when appropriate and explain how this material relates to the pandemic/quarantine.

*Please note- you may be contacted by Loudoun Museum staff to clarify or elaborate details.


Abend, Lisa. “Museums Scramble to Document the Pandemic, Even as It Unfolds.” The New York Times, March 31, 2020, sec. Arts.

Arnold, Willis Ryder. “Smithsonian Institution Acquires Ferguson-Related Protest Art and Signs.” Accessed April 9, 2020.

De Gruyter Conversations. “Coronarchiv: How Public Historians Are Collecting Memories of the Corona Pandemic,” April 6, 2020.

Home. “Experiencing History: Collecting Materials Related to the Coronavirus and COVID-19 Response | Heinz History Center.” Accessed April 9, 2020.

Behind The Scenes. “History Responds: Collecting During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” April 6, 2020.

Marshall, Alex. “Posters, Banners, Boarding Passes: Museums Try to Get a Head Start on History.” The New York Times, June 18, 2018, sec. Arts. “Museums Are Collecting Occupy Wall Street Artifacts.” Accessed April 9, 2020.

HYPEBEAST. “Museums Are Documenting the Coronavirus Pandemic for Future Exhibitions.” Accessed April 6, 2020.

“National Museum of American History to Collect Objects Related to COVID-19 – Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities.” Accessed April 9, 2020.

Museum-iD. “Rapid Response Collecting: Social and Political Change,” November 17, 2017., Robert Behre. “Behre: These Are Historic Times; Museums Have Begun Documenting Them.” Post and Courier. Accessed April 6, 2020.

“V&A · Rapid Response Collecting: An Introduction.” Accessed April 9, 2020.

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