Glenbow capturing life during the pandemic
Museum asks Calgarians to send in cards, letters, posts about COVID experiences
For many, life during the COVID -19 pandemic may seem like a hazy mix of haphazard home-schooling, Netflix bingeing and judgmental Facebook posts.
But we are actually living through unprecedented times, a rare peacetime period where the entire world is living with uncertainty while getting a front-seat view of history unfolding. The Glenbow Museum wants to record it all for posterity and is putting out a call for letters, postcards, emails, illustrations and even social media posts from Calgarians to get a picture of life during COVID-19.
“We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks, understanding that this is a strange experience and a very strange time in our lives and it really does deserve to be recognized in that sense by museums like Glenbow,” marketing and communications manager Jenny Conway Fisher says. “We wanted to make sure it was an active project, that it was something that genuinely went along with our mission and our values in terms of activating things and keeping things alive and having it be creative and related to art.”
Dear Glenbow asks participants to answer specific questions, including: What is your life like right now? Is there an object, an activity, a routine or a person that is important to you right now? What do you hope to remember about this experience? What do you think is important for our future selves or our descendants to understand or learn from this time in our lives?
But Conway says the museum sees this as a collective project and is not putting on strict parameters.
“It’s not about us looking at a bunch of objects on a table and saying ‘Well, that’s important and that’s important,’” she says. “It’s more like asking the people who are most important to us — our community — to tell us what’s important and tell us what they are going through because I think that will have the most resonance later on.”
Dear Glenbow is one of a number of COVID -19 initiatives underway by museums in Canada and the U.S. The Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, for instance, has begun collecting artifacts that reflect life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letters and other communication gathered as part of Dear Glenbow will make up an archive that will hopefully spark other projects by artists and historians, both in the near and distant future.
“How will they use it? It’s too early to tell,” Glenbow president and CEO Nicholas Bell says. “The important thing is we will be able to provide this informational resource, almost this treasure trove that will be able to serve many different purposes. On the one hand, we may not know how it gets used in our lifetimes and that’s OK. On the other hand, we may look back at this in five years and say ‘Wow, what a strange year 2020 was or what a strange year 2021 was?’ Maybe it’s the uncertainty of what normal could look like in even a few years that makes that important to crystallize.”
Letters will be collected until July 31, 2020. Mail to: Dear Glenbow Attention Collections Manager, Glenbow Museum 130 9th Avenue S.E., Calgary, Alberta T2G 0P3; or email to Dearglenbow@ glenbow.org; or via message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #Dearglenbow.
The Glenbow Museum wants to hear about Calgarians’ life during the pandemic and is inviting people to submit letters, postcards, emails, illustrations and posts to its Dear Glenbow project.