Bartow History Museum collects firsthand accounts for COVID-19 project

Posted 5/14/20

Striving to chronicle the county’s experience during COVID-19, Bartow History Museum is reaching out to the public for firsthand accounts. “The purpose of this project is to document how …

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Bartow History Museum collects firsthand accounts for COVID-19 project

Striving to chronicle the county’s experience during COVID-19, Bartow History Museum is reaching out to the public for firsthand accounts. 

“The purpose of this project is to document how COVID-19 has changed the lives of all of us socially, culturally and economically,” BHM Director Trey Gaines said. “We want to capture the stories, memories and physical reminders that represent lives of doctors, nurses, business owners, employees, families, teachers, students, religious, civic and government leaders, and others in Bartow County during this historic time.”

As part of the museum’s permanent collection, the submissions may be used in various ways, including future exhibits, research or posts on social media. 

“These collected materials will be preserved so that future generations will have the opportunity to learn from our experiences,” Gaines said. “We want to give people an opportunity to add their experiences to the historical record, demonstrating that no matter how large or small the impact this has had on our lives, it’s all part of our collective history.”

Temporarily closed due to the pandemic, BHM’s gift shop, multi-purpose room, and permanent and temporary exhibits are housed in the 1869 Courthouse at 4 E. Church St. in Cartersville, under the Church Street bridge. Permanent exhibits include “A Sense of Place,” “Bartow Beginnings,” “Community Champions,” “People at Work,” “The Coming War” and “Toward New Horizons.”

“When the museum closed in mid-March, we began creating digital content that we made available to the public through email, website and social media to remain engaged with the community,” Gaines said. “As the virus spread and life drastically changed, both globally and locally, we knew we needed to come up with ways to document this significant period in our history.

“We began collecting articles and photographs that documented the impact of COVID-19 at the state and county level, but we also wanted to involve the community so that we could get a broader picture of how the virus was affecting local people. Modeling approaches used by other museums and historical organizations around the state, we developed a system for anyone who wants to contribute their experiences to be able to share them and have them archived at the Bartow History Museum.”

Gaines encourages Bartow residents to submit photographs, stories, and audio and video files online at BHM opened the COVID-19 in Bartow County project to the public Saturday.

“Accepting submissions in a variety of formats allows individuals to share their experiences in a way that is comfortable and unique to them, including photographs, short videos, journal entries, sound recordings, homemade signs or banners and more,” Gaines said. “Although we have only recently opened the project to the community, we have received a number of submissions including photos of volunteers serving food and making face masks, of a birthday party car parade, a video documenting downtown Cartersville in the early days of shelter in place, and written stories of business closures, at-home Sunday School classes and time for old hobbies.

“Each of us has a unique perspective and story to tell, and it is important that we capture the diversity of experiences of medical professionals on the front lines to students learning from home and missing school events to struggling business owners to community volunteers and many others.”

Among those already joining the BHM’s COVID-19 in Bartow County project is Brenda Harris. In promoting the overall effort, the museum shared her written story to supporters in its weekly email.

According to Harris’ submission, “‘When the virus hit our county and the schools closed, my granddaughter, Abbey, immediately asked me to get her a mask for her and all of our family. So, the mask making began with my fabric stash and with what little elastic I had on hand. I proceeded to make about 60 or so masks for family and friends.’”

After sewing face coverings for two neighbors, demand for her creations skyrocketed when one posted her flower mask on Facebook. 

“Within about 15 minutes, my Facebook exploded with requests,” Harris wrote. “I put an order in for 100 yards of elastic, which took a month to come [in]. Elastic became impossible to get. ... Eventually I moved to using pony tail bands until more elastic was available. 
“I have a difficult time saying no, so I continue to make more as requests come in and supplies are available. As of today, I have made approximately 500 masks.”