Museums Are Seeking Covid-19 Memorabilia

“Wanted: Artifacts that show how Americans navigated the Covid-19 crisis. The trick is determining what’s historically valuable.” A. Popescu, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt:How Will We Remember the Pandemic? Museums Are Already DecidingBy Adam Popescu, The New York Times

“Six-year-old Franklin Wong captured the simple frustrationof being a student in this city’s Unified School District in mid-March, after his classes were canceled. He wrote in big blocky letters: ‘ did not go anywhere,’ and added an unhappy face in green and red crayon for his remote-learning assignment.

Six-year-old Franklin Wong’s journal entry… It is in the collection of the Autry Museum of the American West.Credit- Franklin Wong

This may be the first time a first grader’s homework is headed to a permanent museum collection instead of a parent’s refrigerator door, a novelty that underscores how far into uncharted waters curators are sailing.

The Autry Museum of the American West, which recently acquired Franklin’s diary, is among the growing contingent of museums, academic institutions and historical societies from here to Bozeman, Mont., and Washington, D.C., that have begun recording this moment of collective uncertainty in the country’s war against the coronavirus…Museums are not just seeking artists’ works but everyone’s memories — the more personal, the better — in an effort that recalls the repositories of first-person testimony, along with material evidence and historical records, gathered by cultural institutions after Sept. 11.

Jake Sheiner, out of work since mid-March, has painted scenes of his home quarantine. They were collected by the University of Southern California Libraries.Credit- J. Sheiner,

But some scholars and historians point to today’s challenges of depicting an event authentically and from many angles when there is still no end in sight to the pandemic. And, they ask, when everything is an artifact, what is truly historically important — and just whose Covid stories are being told in these archives, and whose are not?…Organizers had a decade after Sept. 11 to assemble multiple views of history that would be examined in repositories culminating in the National September 11 Memorial Museum at ground zero — and even longer to put together the many Holocaust Museums scattered across the globe…In the cases of Holocaust and September 11 museums, personal items represented the memories and traumas of everyday people. As institutions rush to bear witness to the pandemic, some historians ask, will they serve us all and account for the deep divides this virus has tapped?

Ruben Natal-San Miguel’s Toilet Paper Hoarder Manhattan NYC was submitted to the Museum of the City of New York‘s Credit- Ruben Natal-San Miguel

‘Museums are places where we convene to make sense of our shared human experience,’ said Martha S. Jones, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University. ‘Still, the burden, pain and grief of this pandemic are not being experienced in the same way across the nation’s many communities.’

Memories by Amber Ren, a virtual exhibition presented by the Eric Carle museum in Amherst, Mass.

Covid-19 has exposed a vein of bigotry toward Asian-Americans. It has been particularly virulent toward African-Americans, [Native-Americans on the reservations] and Latinos.”

 

Presidential Leader Joseph R. Biden and his advisers see 2020 largely playing out as a referendum on Trump. Credit- Kriston J.  Bethel for The New York Times

“We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. Please stay safe. Please take care of each other.”~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions: Examine the titles of the post and the actual article.  Examine the photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. People are collecting artifacts that show how Americans navigated the Covid-19 crisis.
  2. Six-year-old Franklin Wong’s journal entry was the first assignment he completed since his school closed.
  3. Franklin Wong captured the simple frustration of being a student in this city during the virus.
  4. This may be the first time a first grader’s homework is headed to a permanent museum collection.
  5. This is  a novelty that underscores how far into uncharted waters curators are sailing.
  6. Some people are donating their work to libraries.
  7. This is an effort to recall the repositories of first-person testimony.
  8. Some people are depicting important events from their lives.
  9. Many museums are seeking art from regular people and the requests have struck a chord.
  10. According to Bob McGinnis, the covid-19 experience focuses him on his mortality.

 

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

But some/sum  scholars and historians point to todays/today’s challenges of/off depicting an event authentically/authentic  and from/form many angels/angles when there is still no end in sight/cite to the pandemic. And, they ask, when/wen everything is a/an artifact, what is truly historically/history important — and just whose Covid story/stories are being/bean told/tell in these archives, and who’s/whose are not?

 

Identify The  Speakers

Directions:  Read the following quotes (and actions) from  people in the article and see if you  can identify them.

  1. “I did not go anywhere.”
  2. “Museums have a responsibility to meet history head on.”
  3. He has been walking the streets snapping photos of his native Queens, sharing images with the Museum of the City of New York.
  4. He has painted scenes of his home quarantine. They were collected by the University of Southern California Libraries.
  5. “It brings into sharp focus my mortality.”
  6. “A successful museum of this kind should provide context and enable future visitors to understand the tenor and temper of the times, including inequities, racial and otherwise.”

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Have you been keeping a journal, photos, or other types of remembrances  during this pandemic? Explain why?
  2. In your opinion is this a good idea?  Why or why not?
  3. Why did The Autry Museum of the American West, want Franklin  Franklin Wong’s journal?
  4. After what other major event in the U.S. did  cultural institutions seek artifacts and repositories of first-person testimony, along with material evidence?
  5. Several scholars and historians are stating some challenges of depicting an event authentically. What are they?
  6. Why did Bob McGinnis leave a three-page essay to to the Covid collection at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas.
  7. After reading this article are you inspired to begin collecting memorabilia to give to museums? Why or why not?
  8. What new information have you learned from this article?

ANSWER KEY

Additional Exercise

Directions: Search the web and see if you can  find the various kinds of things people are giving to museums and other institutions. For example one man in the article left an essay he wrote to his family and  another left  photos he took in his community.

 

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