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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Life During The Pandemic: Cincinnati Museum Center Wants Your Story

face coverings
Courtesy of Cincinnati Museum Center
Masks and patterns for making them donated by a museum staff member.

The Cincinnati Museum Center began collecting stories, poetry, memorabilia and artifacts in May 2020 related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As more people get the vaccine, the museum still wants to hear how this past year has affected folks across the Tri-State.

As WVXU reported, Pandemic Stories: Greater Cincinnati and the 2020 COVID-19 Crisis, aims to collect and preserve details of "our community's progression through intense upheaval, and toward what may be a new normal." People are encouraged to donate remembrances, stories, journals and more.

"Response hasn't been huge but I find that what we have gotten has been very thoughtful and interesting," says Christine Engels, archives manager, adding that the majority of donations so far have been poetry.

"Everybody I tell this to gets a little surprised, but I think maybe with all of us having a little bit of extra time and with it being such unprecedented circumstances, maybe people are getting inspired to be a little more creative."

Jeniquine Avery submitted the poem "Peace in the Pandemic," written when she was a senior at Aiken High School, Class of 2020. It includes this excerpt:

Everyone is scared, but I am not.
Everyone is on Edge, But I am Calm.
People believe the world is ending.
I know it's restarting.
Or, I should say I
hope it's restarting.

Engels says the collection includes photographs depicting how things or places have changed during the pandemic. There are also face shields, face masks and patterns used for creating homemade face coverings, and other ephemera.

She knows she'll have to wait a little longer for the items she's most excited to receive: journals.

"Of course that's not something we would want anybody to donate just yet," she says. "I'm very hopeful people are scribbling away or typing away at home and keeping that because, as you know, we're not anywhere close to (the pandemic) being over just yet."

Once journals - and other items - are donated, they become part of the museum's collection, preserving the past and providing valuable materials for future researchers.

Part of the initiative for the project came from an exhibit on the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that ended around the time the coronavirus pandemic arrived. Engels noticed the museum's collection from the previous epidemic wasn't as extensive as she'd expected. It especially lacked personal accounts of how people were feeling and their experiences from that time.

"There wasn't a lot of how they felt about it in diaries or letters, so I thought maybe we could put that into people's heads now so many years later people will know what people were thinking about and how they were feeling," she explains.

"Record your thoughts," she encourages. "This is a strange time, people are going to want to know what you were thinking."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.