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Smithsonian collecting items to document impact of COVID-19

Smithsonian collecting items to document impact of COVID-19
Posted at 1:11 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 17:18:30-04

The Smithsonian Institution is working to document history as it happens. It's asking ordinary people and organizations to set things aside that will help tell the story of COVID-19.

“America will not be the same after this event,” said Alexandra Lord, Chair and Curator of the Medicine and Science Division at the National Museum of American History.

Lord says a task force is looking for items that will show the full impact of the coronavirus. They've been in touch with the U.S. Public Health Service to hold onto medical supplies, like ventilators, test kits and masks.

Objects from corporations and small businesses can help show the massive economic impact.

Curators are even looking into how to document working, learning and spending time together through Zoom calls.

“We have access to all sorts of technology that enables us to talk to family and friends, and that's really different from past pandemics,” said Lord. “We really want to mark that in some way.”

Right now, curators are just flagging the objects they're interested in. They'll start physically collecting once their offices reopen, but there's no cutoff to stop.

“In fact, it's more than probable that 40, 50 years from now, curators at the Smithsonian may find objects in someone's attic that were related to COVID-19 and we may feel at the time, this is a really fabulous object we really want to bring it in to the museum,” said Lord.

Some objects will be included in a previously planned exhibit called "In Sickness and in Health." That's scheduled to open in 2021.

If you'd like to suggest something for curators to consider, send an email with pictures and description to inquiry@si.edu .