Vermont library documents pandemic through pictures

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 1:52 PM EST
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - It has been more than a year since the coronavirus outbreak began and we’re approaching the anniversary of when Vermont went into lockdown last March. The pandemic isn’t something many of us are likely to forget, but one Vermont library is making sure it goes down in history. Our Kayla Martin reports.

“We were all stuck at home at the time, I remember that. So, we were dying for something to show how weird the world was,” said Viktorija Blanchard, a librarian at the Brownell Library in Essex Junction.

Blanchard has been collecting photos from the community since last March. It’s all part of the library’s COVID-19 Experience Archive, an online photo gallery dedicated to preserving the pandemic.

“It’s certainly a historical thing to have to live through. And while we can hope that we don’t have to live through a pandemic again, we don’t know that at this point,” said Wendy Hysko, the director of the Brownell Library.

Hysko believes it’s important to document our history so we can learn from it. A photo from a friend depicting police from the 1918 Spanish flu compared to police now gave her the idea for this project.

“I thought, wouldn’t that be nice to do for Essex Junction? And we had already set up an omeka database for some other historical pictures,” Hysko said.

Since they already had the framework, her staff got it. They started adding some photos of their own.

“I have a picture of myself, and my 2-year-old daughter attending a birthday party over a Zoom meeting. We’re wearing party hats; we’re all dolled up,” Blanchard said.

Soon, the idea got traction from the public. They have collected more than 100 photos and counting. Everything from adapted retirement parties and to new hobbies like cooking and baking to virtual visits and driveway messages.

Blanchard believes we need a little bit of humor in tough times, that’s why her favorite photo is a snowman wearing a mask.

“It’s goofy, and it’s also a little uncanny,” she said.

Click here for information on how you can help make history and to visit the Brownell Archive Website.

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