Students from J.V. Humphries School recorded their feelings and experiences during the pandemic. Now the Kootenay Lake Archives would like to hear from other citizens as well. Photo: School District 8 Students from J.V. Humphries School recorded their feelings and experiences during the pandemic. Now the Kootenay Lake Archives would like to hear from other citizens as well. Photo: School District 8

Archives seeks stories of pandemic’s effects on Kaslo

Written submissions, audio recordings, or photographs are invited until October

The Kootenay Lake Archives wants to know how the coronavirus has affected Kaslo-area residents and the community.

It’s invited senior students from J.V. Humphries School to record their feelings and experiences during the pandemic that shut down most of the country a few months ago. And they’d like to hear from other citizens as well.

“One of our volunteers said, things have changed so much, here’s an opportunity to have students take pictures, of things like the skateboard park being closed, things the students wanted to do that they couldn’t and were told to stay home… so it started like that,” says Elizabeth Scarlett, the volunteer archivist for the Kootenay Lake Historical Society.

“We were interested also in not just personal experience, but how the village looked, what was different – the streets were empty, things like that. We thought it would be interesting.

“It was such a change for all of us, we thought it would be interesting for the school, and then later the public to come up with how things have changed.”

At the least, the submissions will become material for a people’s history exhibit of the pandemic in the North Kootenay Lake region; at the most, it may be valuable contemporary source material for future historians on life in small town BC during these historic times.

“What happens today is tomorrow’s history,” says Scarlett. “People think we just look at old stuff, but we’re interested in present information, because that becomes history later on.”

Only a small part of history is about kings and leaders. The vast majority of life — those of average folks — has passed without recording, a limitation that has frustrated countless historians. Even the experience of the last great pandemic in the west, the Spanish Flu of 1918, is only remembered in fragments.

“At home and at work some people wore face masks,” says a release from the Kootenay Lake Historical Society, which manages the archives. “We know this from old photographs, but very little else at a local level except for rows of close-dated grave markers in the cemetery. Some survivors may have recorded their experience, but in smaller communities the results are often scarce and hard to find.”

The project is kind of history-on-the-fly. Citizens are encouraged to make notes of how daily life has been affected. Business people, office workers, retirees, unemployed people – everyone’s life has been changed from the pandemic. And even that is changing: if there’s a second wave over the coming months, Scarlett says, our perspective may change again, so a current record will become important.

“It’s just a way of recording what has happened, and how we have responded to the pandemic,” she says.

The archives is now accepting written submissions, audio recordings, or photographs, and will continue to do so into October. If you’d like to contribute, email archives@klhs.bc.ca.

— From the Valley Voice

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