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Library Leads City Project to Document Local COVID-19 Experiences

#StrongmontStories, Sharing in Place” oral history project to be archived at the Library of Congress
Longmont Public Library
Longmont Public Library (Photo by Matt Steininger)

This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Our community is currently living through one of those rare times in which we know -- even as time is passing -- that this is an historical moment.  What will happen and who we will be on the other side of this crisis remains to be seen, but what we are experiencing right now will be remembered and retold and referred to for the rest of our lives.

Because we tend to remember what we record, the Longmont Public Library has launched a local StoryCorps project, #StrongmontStories, Sharing in Place, to assist the Longmont community in creating an oral history of the COVID-19 experience.

StoryCorps is an independently funded 501(c)(3) organization that promotes the preservation and sharing of humanity’s stories through informal interviews and personal narrations that are recorded and archived. Its goal is to use stories to create connections and facilitate a more just and compassionate world.

As Librarian Devon Smith explains, “We are doing this project do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive of the COVID-19 experience for future generations.”

Recording a StoryCorps interview is very user friendly. Participants:

·       Invite a loved one, roommate, friend, or neighbor to participate in an interview or records their own interview.

·       Use the StoryCorps App and make a plan to record anywhere.

·       Uploads their recording to the #StrongmontStories community, remembering to tag their story with the keyword #StrongmontStories.

#StrongmontStories is the StoryCorps Community Page where the recordings will be uploaded and accessed. It is monitored by library staff, and everyone must adhere to the community guidelines, as well as the #StrongmontStories' goal of recording personal experiences related to the COVID-19 quarantine. Interviews that do not address the COVID-19 questions and/or veer off topic may not be included in the archive. Some examples of interviews that will be excluded are political rants, blaming races/groups of people for the cause of COVID-19, criticisms of other cultures, etc.

Participants must join the Community Page before being able to upload. All voices heard in interviews – whether archived on the StoryCorps Archive website or not – must belong to individuals who have agreed to be recorded for a StoryCorps conversation.  Participation in this project is open to anyone who lives, works, goes to school or otherwise participates in the Longmont community on a regular basis. If you identify as a Longmonter, #StrongmontStories wants to hear from you.

Question prompts are provided, and participants are encouraged to use those prompts, but can also move onto other related topics. The question prompts are:

·       How has the COVID-19 quarantine impacted your life?

·       What have you missed the most while being quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic?

·       Were there any benefits to being quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic? What were they?

·       What, if anything, will you do differently after the COVID-19 quarantine is over? 

While StoryCorps interviews do not have a minimum length, the maximum length is 45 minutes. As participants record their interview in the app, they will be able to see the time elapsed and time remaining on the app screen. The app will automatically stop recording at minute 45. If you would like to record an interview for longer than 45 minutes, you can create a second recording (or more) and publish each one to the website as Parts I, II, etc.

To join the #StrongmontStories Community Page and see complete instructions on conducting interviews, visit the Library’s webpage, #StrongmontStories Oral History Project at http://bit.ly/StrongmontStories.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Residents with photos that document the experience of these extraordinary times in Longmont can contact the Longmont Museum’s Curator of History, Erik Mason, at Erik.Mason@longmontcolorado.gov, and help the Museum build an archive of #StrongmontStories photos. Also, while the Museum is not able to accept objects at present, once it re-opens, staff will be starting a collection of COVID-19 objects, so save those vacuum cleaner bag facemasks.

Together we’ll get through this, and together we’ll document this time for future generations. Join the #StrongmontStories community and get started today.