Austin History Center collects documents from locals to archive 2020, COVID-19 pandemic


AUSTIN (KXAN) — From a global pandemic and nationwide protests, to devastating natural disasters and a divisive presidential election, 2020 has reshaped the way we operate as a society.

That’s why Austin History Center is now putting together a special archive to help document this period of time for future generations called ‘The COVID-19 Files’.

The Austin History Center is used to collecting memorable documents. Its archives go back to the early 19th century, but some employees say they were taken aback by some of the images they’ve received over the past year.

“None of us had ever seen 6th Street abandoned before,” Austin History Center Media Archivist Melissa Moya said.

Moya is one of 17 city employees who work to maintain and catalog significant moments in Austin. She says since the pandemic began, they’ve gotten an increasing number of requests for documents related to the Spanish Flu, which sparked an idea.

“People started asking questions about the 1918 pandemic, and we didn’t have a ton of materials handy to give people for research, and there were a few lightbulb moments of, ‘well we should be collecting things that document, you know, what our community is doing right now,'” she explained.

So they started ‘The COVID-19 Files’ back in March. It includes an online forum where Austinites can submit personal moments for future generations.

And like most everything else in 2020, Austin History Center has gone mostly digital. So far, they’ve gotten more than 3,500 items.

“We do have photographs. We’ve gotten video recordings and a lot of poetry, essays… a lot of artwork,” Moya said.

The Center says it wants future generations who browse this collection to get a realistic view of how Austinites made it through the pandemic.

“I hope it’s one of resilience,” Moya said.

The Austin History Center says it plans to release ‘The COVID-19 Files’ early next year. Anyone who is interested in adding to the collection can still do so through its website.

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