[Editorial Note: This blog post was adapted from a message last week from President Mark B. Letzer to all members of the historical society.]
By Mark B. Letzer, President & CEO, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, MD
The Maryland Historical Society has been the keeper of the state’s history for over 175 years. We are storytellers of pivotal moments of history told through our unparalleled collection of Maryland culture. Photographs of healthcare workers responding to the 1918 epidemic of the Spanish flu that shook Baltimore, as well as correspondence describing the Annapolis yellow fever epidemics of 1793 and 1800, provide critical context to the COVID-19 response and, most importantly, proof that we will persevere.
In an age with a 24-hour news cycle and potential disinformation on social media, it is our role as historians to cut through the noise and preserve meaningful, factual, and personal stories that will help future generations understand this unique time in our history. In response to COVID-19, we are beginning this process right now with the crowd-sourced Collecting in Quarantine initiative:
- Letters from the Homefront. Inspired by the poignant letters in our collection documenting past adversities, we are calling on all Marylanders to send us their personal stories of how this pandemic is impacting their lives. Whether sharing your experience from the couch in self-quarantine, or the challenges faced as you continue to work through the crisis, your story is unique and important. We are particularly requesting accounts from Marylanders abroad and our healthcare workers. Send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow on social media with #LettersFromtheHomeFrontMD.
- Business Unusual. Right now in Maryland, it is anything but business as usual. Businesses big and small are having to quickly react to the ever-changing landscape that necessarily puts public health before profit. Employee and customer considerations have forced businesses to close their doors. A typically bustling downtown area now looks eerily vacant.We are asking you to share your stories. Is your business closing or has shut its doors? Has your restaurant switched to delivery only? Is your neighborhood walk now filled with closed doors and empty windows? Send us a photo and your story to mdhs.org/business-unusual. We are creating a photo essay illustrating the industrial spirit of Marylanders during this critical time. You can also follow along on social media with #BusinessUnusualMD.
Some submissions to the Collecting in Quarantine initiative will become part of the MdHS collections. One hundred years from now, your letters and photographs will grant historical perspective to the next challenge to our nation. We look forward to updating you on the Collecting in Quarantine initiative while we continue to turn to our collection for context, lessons, and hope.