Guided By Values

6 Tips For Documenting Your Personal History

Posted by Sue Longenecker on May 6, 2020 12:44:29 PM

HistoryAt certain points in our lives, we are acutely aware of the fact that we are living through history. The COVID-19 global pandemic is one of those times. 

At Peck we teach our students to be historians, developing strong research skills and locating reliable sources. However, at this moment in time, we are the primary sources we usually seek out as historians.  Documenting, collecting, and preserving primary sources during this historical event could help future generations better understand what daily life was like during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. 

Here are six ways you can document your experience: 

  1. Keep a Diary/Journal: Diaries have been powerful primary sources from many prominent historical figures, from government officials like Winston Churchill to writers such as Ernest Hemingway, from young soldiers in the trenches of WWI to families hiding during the horrors of WWII. Diaries can simply record the events of your day, express your thoughts and feelings, or contain lists of things for which you are grateful for during these times.
  2. Take Photographs/Videos: We all have a camera in the palm of our hands. Six-foot social distancing, hanging out on the front porch, playing board games, students distance learning, Zoom family dinners, storefront signage, empty streets, people wearing masks, drive-by birthday parades, food store lines—all of these would be worth documenting to remember this time.
  3. Write a letter: Although some consider letter-writing a lost art, this is the perfect time to sit down and correspond by hand with family and friends. Ask them how they are spending the days during the pandemic. A cousin living in Queens may have a different experience than a sibling in Texas or an uncle on another continent. Friends can plan what they would like to do when a state of normalcy occurs, or document what activities were off-limits, such as movie theaters or theme parks.
  4. Conduct Interviews: What a perfect time to record stories and eyewitness accounts of your family members and friends. Whether you interview a frontline doctor or nurse, a teacher, a small shop owner, a restaurant worker, a parent, a high school senior, or a company owner who had to reinvent her business to keep employees working—all have great stories to be told.
  5. Collect Artifacts: In addition to just newspapers and magazines, there are many other items that can be saved from this time. Samples of homemade or purchased masks are great evidence of daily life. Plenty of interesting items are coming in through the mail, such as flyers/brochures from local government, shopping circulars, or special notices in utility bills. Posters, signage, and unused play or airline tickets would all be interesting items to store in an acid-free box.
  6. Create Artwork/Poetry: Artwork and poetry are primary sources that add much-needed color to a story. This is a great time for artists to express thoughts and feelings onto paper in the form of poetry, drawings, and paintings depicting scenes they may be observing in their everyday lives at this time or expressing feelings they may be experiencing.