Collecting COVID-19

  • Several hand sewn rectangular face masks sitting next to a sewing machine.The Michigan History Center, through the Archives of Michigan and 12 museums and historic sites around the state, preserves and shares information about our state’s past through exhibits, programs, online resources and more. 

    We also collect and preserve the documents, images and objects that will help future generations understand our present. There is no question that the coronavirus emergency that is so deeply affecting all our lives is a significant history-making time. 

    When we look back at what the state collected during the 1918 influenza epidemic, we find government records, but few glimpses into what the crisis meant on a personal level.

    Our hope is that the record we preserve in 2020 will help future generations understand what it felt like to live through this time. Our goal is to collect the stories of diverse Michiganders from across the state, and we need your help.

Share your photos, videos and audio files

  • We are partnering with the Detroit Free Press to collect your photos, videos and audio files that document your daily lives now. The materials collected may be preserved in the Archives of Michigan’s collections. 

    The Archives of Michigan is collecting photographs and videos at our digital project website. You can upload your submission there or submit it on your public Instagram or Twitter feeds or on the Michigan History Center Facebook page using the hashtag #MICOVID19Story. (See the project's terms and conditions.) The website includes an image gallery that allows others to see what people are posting, in real time. We hope the shared experiences will also strengthen our state’s sense of community and reduce feelings of isolation

    Share your story »

    Detroit Free Press logoThe Detroit Free Press will assemble recordings to be shared in an audio series called We Lived It, and send them to the history center for archival use. Stories based on the effort also will be written for the newspaper. Audio stories can be submitted in 3-minute tales at 313-288-0370 or by emailing freephistory@gmail.com. You can hear full episodes of the We Lived It series at your favorite podcasts app or visit freep.com.

    Not sure what to submit? Maybe one of these questions will help spark some ideas:

    • How do you communicate and connect with your family, friends, colleagues or strangers? (e.g., screenshots of family group text chains, Zoom calls, signs, sidewalk chalk around neighborhood, Christmas lights on windows)
    • What places have more importance to you now? (e.g., your home office set-up, your favorite room, the local grocery store, your daily walk route)
    • What is something that has brought you joy unexpectedly? (e.g., cooking at home, creative projects, home gyms, family game night)
    • What is something that you’ve lost? (e.g., going out to eat with friends, the illness or death of loved ones, sense of safety/security)
    • How have you protected your health or the health of others? (e.g., wearing masks, making hand sanitizer, talking with loved ones for support, cleaning your home) 
    • How have you reacted to public health directives? (e.g., bought too much toilet paper, started wearing a mask, sheltered in place before it was required)

Donate objects or archival materials

  • Once the need for social separation has passed, we will collect objects and conversations that broaden and deepen Michigan’s story. In the meantime, we are encouraging you to help us identify the kinds of things we should collect.

    Michigan History Museum collections

    Three-dimensional objects and artifacts make up the Michigan History Museum collections. We are seeking items that represent daily lives of Michiganders before, during and after the crisis. Here are some examples of objects the museum may be interested in collecting:

    • Signs from local stores noting buying limits or inability to stock certain items.
    • Masks sewn by home crafters.
    • Face shields and filters fabricated on 3D printed by Michiganders.
    • Badges or signs from hospitals.
    • Artwork created by families while sheltering in place.
    • Used gift cards or gift certificates from local businesses.
    • T-shirts and other apparel related to the pandemic.

    To donate an object:

    1. Complete the Artifact Donation Information form (PDF)
    2. Email it to DNR-MHC-MuseumCollections@Michigan.gov

    Archives of Michigan collections

    Documents, manuscripts, photographs and digital materials (like video and audio recordings) make up the Archives of Michigan collections. Like the museum collections goals, we are seeking materials that document daily lives of Michiganders before, during and after the crisis. Here are some examples of items the archives may be interested in collecting:

    • Photographs of signs, empty streets, screening operations, quarantine rules, unique quarantine related family gatherings, online meetings, worship services, book clubs, etc.  
    • Audio recordings of how you or your family or community are dealing with the COVID-19 quarantine rules or how you are affected by the pandemic.
    • Journals written by Michiganders documenting their experiences.
    • Correspondence (email or paper) between individuals or from small businesses.
    • Rules, guidelines or other small business documentation related to the COVID-19 event.

    To donate an item:

    1. Complete the Archives Donation Information form (PDF)
    2. Email it to Archives@Michigan.gov
  • Thank you

    We are committed to collecting stories for the long term. We understand that, for some Michiganders, today’s experiences are currently too raw to document. We also understand that some of the best materials come out of periods of reflection, after an immediate crisis has passed. We look forward to engaging with you on a timeframe that meets your needs.

    We thank you for your participation and we look forward to preserving your stories in our museum and archival collections.

    Questions about the project? Contact Tobi Voigt, community engagement director, at VoigtT@Michigan.gov.