Add to living history during COVID-19

Johnson City Press • Apr 14, 2020 at 10:15 AM

For decades, we have relied on the Archives of Appalachia for images and documents from the region’s past as we have reported on history and other topics.

Founded in 1978, the repository at East Tennessee State University is a phenomenal research tool for students, historians, genealogists and others with interest in the stories of this region. It houses more than 250,000 images, 85,000 sound recordings and 800 collections of manuscripts, including organizations’ records and personal papers. It’s also home to more than 500 magazine and newspaper titles, spanning over 200 years.

You’ll find such collections and files as the early photographs of Johnson City taken by Burr Harrison, the Jonesboro Woman's Christian Temperance Union’s minutes book, the records of the Coal Employment Project and the 1863-65 diary of Blountville resident Fannie Fain.

The latter is of particular relevance to our discussion today, for it offered a glimpse of daily life in Northeast Tennessee during the Civil War.

While much of what is in the Archive results from preserving the past, the staff often is focused on current events. After all, today’s present is tomorrow’s history. That’s where you come in. You have a chance to help write the story of a unique time in our lives.

The Archives recently initiated the living history project, “Telling Your Story: Documenting COVID-19 in East Tennessee” to document the novel coronavirus pandemic and how it affects our region. The Archive’s staff is asking local residents to share personal experiences of living through the pandemic in writing, photographs, videos, social media posts and business correspondences. Submissions will be permanently housed within the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services.

Archives Director Jeremy Smith says the idea is to chronicle how you journeyed through these unprecedented times. How do you spend your days? How have your lives, families and businesses been affected? How have you experienced loss and hardship? What lessons have you learned?

Any resident 18 or older can join the effort. You don’t have to worry about proper grammar, spelling or writing style, as well as using professional video recording and editing equipment. Submissions should not include identifiable health information about other people. You can even make your contributions anonymous.

More information about the project, including a submission form, can be found at etsu.edu/cas/cass/archives/covid-19story.php. Questions about the project may be directed to [email protected] or 423-439-4338.

Generations who follow us will want to know how we coped with this pandemic, much as we are now looking back to the Spanish Flu Outbreak of 1918 and other outbreaks for perspective. Be a part of that story by taking the Archives of Appalachia up on its offer.