At first glance it seems news gathering and archiving history have nothing to do with one another until you consider that news plus time is history and that is why the news end of the equation has to be right or the end result becomes muddled history.

In other words, history is what is happening now and the newspaper you are holding has and will always be a great source for historic researchers and an essential one, years from now, for those wondering what life was like in the Chagrin Valley during the great pandemic of 2020.

Getting it right and from the horse’s mouth is why we love what the folks down at the Chagrin Falls Historical Society’s museum and archives are doing to save the history of this place at this moment.

“When we are teaching Chagrin students during field trips, we always say history isn’t just what happened a long time ago, history can be what happened 5 minutes ago and yesterday and any other time that is before the present,” historical society Executive Director Ruth Zeager told us.

There is no official name for the project, although the folks down at the historical society are loosely calling it “Quarantine Stories.” But they are going to need some help from their friends. That means you.

The historical society hopes to collect personal writings, artifacts, digital posts and blogs as well as photos and images of what it looked like living through a pandemic and lock down orders. But what are these, exactly?

“I think about all of the people who are sewing masks and it reminds me of sewing and knitting circles during the wars of previous centuries,” Ms. Zeager reminds.

Today, it’s people making cloth masks, which became necessary when “official” surgical masks became as scarce as hens’ teeth.

Contributors might tell what it felt like to wear a mask or how they used paper coffee filters tucked inside a cloth one “just to be sure.”

During World War II, food, gas and other commodities were rationed. Today it’s hand sanitizer and toilet paper being rationed. Photos of local stores with bare shelves is another suggestion.

What about photos of all those yard signs applauding frontline and essential workers, social distancing arrows on the floor of the grocery store, kids’ notes and artwork illustrating the lockdown and dining room tables pressed into service as school desks?

How you spent your time during lockdown and when you realized you were an observer and participant to a history in the making, Ms. Zeager suggests.

Now, save objects associated with those experiences and submit them digitally or in their physical form. These can be as simple as a grocery list, take-out restaurant menu, business window signs, directions for how to make a facemask with the finished product, COVID-19 related signs on store and business doors, home lesson plans, grocery lists, directions for making homemade hand sanitizers and other objects.

Digital blogs, local YouTube submissions and social media posts are also eligible for inclusion.

Ms. Zeager said a collections committee will make selections and those most definitive of this place and time will be chosen and documented for public research.

Prospective donors and contributors will be advised of the historical society’s acceptance and collections policies and accepted items will be documented for future researchers.

You will of course want more information but while the museum is closed during the health crisis, you can submit questions and share your personal reflections, experiences and stories, digital images, social media posts, blog posts, and other digital content with Ruth via email. Her address is director@chagrinhistory.org.

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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