this next post was written by Megan Lockhart, Archives Technician at the Oxford County Archives
With the provincial and federal stay home orders underway, archives staff have been working from home for six weeks. This has been an adjustment for not only us but for our patrons as well. Just like many other archives, libraries, galleries, and museums we have had to tap into our creativity to develop innovative ways to stay connected with the community we serve. We have continued to respond to research requests through email but some of our other services are not so easily adapted. Through inspiration from other organizations and institutions and brainstorming between staff we have created a variety of exciting projects including new online activities, virtual programming, and the collection of community stories.
People are looking for ways to entertain themselves and their children at home. Upon seeing the York University Archives’ online puzzles, we were eager to create our own. This led to our “archival puzzles” initiative. Thirty-five free online puzzles all featuring historical photographs and postcards from the archives are now available online at: jigsawplanet.com/OxfordCountyArchives. Not only do these puzzles provide people with some fun while stuck at home, it also opens a new avenue of interactivity between our community and our archival collections.
Along with the puzzle project new Oxford County themed colouring pages are also now available on our website. We are encouraging people to colour the pages and send their masterpieces to us so we can share them on social media. Adults and children are both welcome to submit! Send your completed pages to email@example.com.
We are also in the process of developing an online exhibit featuring food and recipes from the era of the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic. Recipes from this time will be featured online in a restaurant menu format. We hope that people will enjoy the exhibit as both educational and interactive if they choose to make the featured recipes at home.
One of our most popular programs, Memories from the Vault, has been put on hold temporarily due to COVID-19. As our program coordinator, I applied myself to finding a way to bring the program to our community remotely. I am thankful for our social media platforms as this has allowed me to create virtual video versions of the program which we will be sharing on Instagram during the month of May. The theme is “Spring Garden Party with the Archives”. I will be discussing certain historical springtime trends such as food, fashion, recreation, and leisure. Pictured on the right are two embroidered handkerchiefs from the Archive’s collection. Developing these virtual programs have provided its own challenges, having to film myself speaking, writing a script, and learning the ins and outs of video editing. I am excited to share the videos with everyone online weekly beginning May 12.
Collecting Community Stories
The Oxford County Archives has entered an exciting partnership with the Woodstock Museum NHS in collecting community stories and records related to COVID-19. We are asking for submissions of photographs, letters, journals, video, audio, artwork or digital text to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. These records will be a significant resource for future generations of students, researchers, archivists, and historians. The material will be stored at the museum but the archives will be provided access and a collaborative exhibit will likely be developed in future. To correspond with this project we have established a new educational programme at the archives: “Students Living History”. We are asking local students to submit journal entries and photos outlining their personal pandemic experiences; we would also like to use this material in a future exhibit.
These past few weeks have put things into perspective for us at the archives. It has made us appreciate the internet, and social media which has allowed us to stay connected with our patrons and community partners. It has brought us closer to colleagues in other heritage/cultural institutions. “We are all in this together” is a saying that has really applied to us in recent times. We have been compelled to think outside the box when it comes to how we provide our services. Most importantly, we have realized just how important community connections are and keeping our archival collections visible, relevant, and accessible is a goal we will continue to strive toward even after we return to the archives. Click on Oxford County Archives to go to their web page.