The Atlanta History Center in Buckhead has received more than 1,000 items or sets of items donated by metro Atlantans to represent how they have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ranging from photos to essays to videos, they came to the center after it posted messages to its website and social media channels requesting them starting in April 2020.
All part of the Atlanta Corona Collective, the items are being archived as part of the center’s collection and may be displayed in the future as part of an exhibition on the pandemic or on a particular topic such as public health, said Paul Crater, its vice president of collections and research services. According to the center’s website, the items will be added to its online database, called Album, by June.
“We were very pleased with the response,” Crater said of the items donated. “Speaking for myself, I really wasn’t sure what the public’s response would be, but it was overwhelming to receive that many items and (that much) interest from the community. What stands out to me the most is the more personal things people chose to share with us about things going on in their lives.
“There was a wedding that had COVID restrictions in it and photos the couple shared. There was one image that was about childbirth. (The couple) were in the hospital and masked up. There was an image of a funeral service for a friend (and another of) a Sweet 16 birthday party (for) the donor’s daughter.”
Crater added the items captured the city’s shutdown and its residents’ perseverance and positive attitudes amid the pandemic.
“The photographers took pictures of people out on their porches and decks,” he said. “The photographers were very generous in sharing those images with us. A lot of things we received were photography of the shutdown when nobody was on the street or in the terminals at Hartsfield-Jackson (Atlanta International Airport) or on the highways.
“Keeping up community spirit around the pandemic (was a theme). There was a lot of diversity in the imagery we got. We did receive some essays from students in high schools around the Atlanta area and also from adults in extended learning programs at Emory talking about how the pandemic has affected their lives.”
Crater said the center decided to embark on this project to “make a connection or reconnection with our audience,” especially when it was closed due to the outbreak between March and July 2020.
“We have seen this happen in other institutions reacting to a public event,” he said. “It’s sort of crowdsourced collecting. We saw it (seven) years ago with Ferguson (Missouri) and the Michael Brown shooting.
“When the shutdown occurred, we noticed other public libraries and history centers were doing something like this. We thought it was a good vehicle for us to reconnect to our audience. … I think this has future applications about collecting around events in Atlanta, not necessarily a pandemic but ‘tell us how you experienced (the Atlanta) Jazz Fest or Music Midtown or some other event people can contribute content to?’”
One of the items donated was a castle built entirely from pizza boxes, Amazon packaging, duct tape and popsicle sticks by Ansley Park residents Michael Bishop and his daughter, Mariella Bishop, while living through the first months of lockdown in Florida in spring 2020.
“We … were looking for something new to do during the long days of the pandemic lockdown,” Michael Bishop said in a news release.
Mariella Bishop also added gnomes, a princesses and farm animals to complete the castle scene.
The Corona Collective also includes audio recordings of interviews done by StoryCorps, an organization whose mission is to preserve and share human beings’ tales so they can last for future generations. So far about half a dozen recordings have been made, all through a mobile app, Crater said.
StoryCorps has a studio on the center’s campus and will start conducting in-person recordings there after Labor Day, though individuals can do them via the mobile app at any time.
Crater said the center is also still collecting items for the Corona Collective.