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Museum collecting community’s COVID-19 pandemic stories, items

While many are working to handle the COVID-19 pandemic right now, the Freeborn County Historical Museum is working on how to handle it in the future.

Stephanie Kibler, executive director of the museum, said museum staff have started reaching out to the community for their pandemic stories. Whether it’s someone who has been making face masks, a business owner who has had to adapt to survive mandated closures or guidelines, or people worried about their loved ones in care facilities — just to name a few examples — the museum wants to hear about it.

“What we’re hoping to do is gather as many stories on COVID as possible,” Kibler said.

She said the idea eventually came about after museum staff had discussions about past pandemics and other eras that had officials implementing quarantines and other rules — such as the time periods of the Spanish flu, polio, measles and whooping cough breakouts.

While Kibler said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health have thorough statistics available that will be used in documenting how the pandemic affected Freeborn County, the museum is looking to also include accounts of how the pandemic affected individuals.

“We’re really wanting to get the personal stories in our archives,” she said.

While the museum is currently closed to the public, Kibler said people are welcome to send in their stories or call to arrange time to drop off stories or other materials. She said people are also welcome to reach out with questions if they’re unsure of how to go about telling their stories, or if they’d rather be interviewed. The museum is at 1031 Bridge Ave. in Albert Lea and can be reached at 507-373-8003.

There is no cutoff or deadline to turn in stories, and Kibler said she wouldn’t be surprised to still be receiving materials 10 to 15 years from now and beyond, such as journals or other items. She also said the stories won’t be published for decades, likely, as the goal of the project is to be able to have a well-informed discussion 100 years from now on how the coronavirus pandemic affected Freeborn County — not just by the numbers, but by the community’s way of life as well.

“That’s why we really want to have personal stories attached to this. As historians we really want to make sure,” Kibler said. “It’s the heartfelt stories we’re hoping to get and preserve. … It’s just so important to have those stories.”

 

About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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