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Museum of Boulder staff are working to chronicle a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic as it happens through stories, photos and artifacts from the community.

Once social distancing requirements are scaled back, COVID-19 is no longer a public health threat and the museum can re-open, curators and staff plan to put  together an exhibit that will display the history of contagious diseases in Boulder and how locals experienced the coronavirus outbreak.

“If people are comfortable sharing their stories of getting sick, caring for a loved one or losing a loved one we would love to have those stories represented,” said Amelia Brackett Hogstad, exhibits coordinator.

One staff member is collecting shamrocks from their neighborhood, which people put up in their windows to entertain passing children.

“That really spoke to this moment in time where we can’t communicate with each other face to face but we still crave that and find ways to connect,” she said.

People can submit artifacts and stories now or in the future, like examples of homeschooling children or working from home in the middle of a pandemic. The museum also wants to hear from front-line workers and health care providers who are in the thick of it, Brackett Hogstad said, though those stories may come later when people have time to process and share their experiences.

“It’s important to remember that there’s a wide range of experiences and we want to have that reflected,” she said.

The museum has received a handful of submissions so far, said Executive Director Lori Preston.

One 88-year-old Boulder resident told the museum he’s working on a project with a group of friends from his weekly walking group to keep busy — compiling stories and memories from their lives to pass on to children and grandchildren.

Another submission was sent in from the Boulder U-Fix-It Clinic, which hosts events where locals can bring broken items and get repair help from volunteers.

The group held a virtual clinic in March over Zoom and talked about fixing a broken candlestick holder, replacing a lamp socket and repairing a broken drawer hinge.

While the museum is not critical to responding to the pandemic, its role in chronicling how coronavirus impacts the community is important, Preston said.

“We believe we are unique in being the only one in Boulder who holds Boulder’s historical stories and treasures,” Preston said. “We want to collect those stories that can move hearts and change minds, to help understand what we can’t really understand right now.”

Anyone with a story to share can submit photos or artifacts to the exhibit, Brackett Hogstad said.

“We are asking people in the area to send in photographs with short descriptions about any aspect of their lives that has changed due to COVID-19, including working from home, being laid off or furloughed, taking care of a loved one, volunteering or working in a clinic,” she said. “Any story that people want to share, we want to hear it.”

Stories and photos can be sent to Emma@museumofboulder.org. Dropping off artifacts can be arranged by emailing Amelia@museumofboulder.org.

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