Since the start of quarantine back in the spring of 2020, Fredericksburg Area Museum (FAM) has been collecting stories and artifacts in an effort to archive the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on those in the Fredericksburg community.
“I realized that our community is currently living an historic moment, and that the museum needed to start collecting stories for the future,” explains Theresa Cramer, FAM’s education and public programs coordinator and one of the organizers of the collection project. “Objects tell a story. We want to ensure that today’s community stories and voices are preserved.”
FAM honors the art, culture and history of Fredericksburg and surrounding areas. So far, six items and five stories related to the pandemic have been shared with the museum.
“The project is a work in progress,” Cramer says. “So far, we have heard some great stories from the students at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) who had to leave campus in March, a community member who began a garden at the start of the pandemic and many others. Everyone has their own story.”
The museum encourages anyone and everyone to reach out with their tales of what life has been like for them due to COVID-19.
“Future visitors to the museum will have you to thank for sharing your experiences with them as they work to understand this moment in Fredericksburg history,” Cramer says. “We already had a few people contact us about potential donations. Fredericksburg Parent magazine has offered us editions published during the pandemic. Some community members have saved distance learning materials and safety signs from UMW.”
Cramer also has photos from the museum’s socially-distanced programs and events to add to the collection.
“The museum is saving some of its COVID-related objects like our banner with George Washington wearing a face mask,” she says. “We will not be able to take everything collected but we are looking for objects to help tell the complete story of this time.”
Museum staff are looking for objects and stories with
a personal touch.
“As a community museum, FAM is responsible for preserving and interpreting our local history,” Cramer says. “We are all experiencing this year together. But we all bring different perspectives, and we respond differently.”
Cramer keeps busy speaking with potential donors for the collection
project and sharing COVID stories from the community on social media.
“We do not have any specific ‘dream objects’ on our list,” Cramer says. “We are interested in objects that tell a personal story about how our community has faced the pandemic. We don’t want a random mask, but one with a story like a mask worn by a local essential worker.”
As soon as it is safe, the museum will host a Collection Day for community members to bring in any COVID-related items they wish to donate to the project. Dropping off objects without approval is discouraged.
Earlier this year, FAM also encouraged families to capture their own memories from 2020 through an at-home DIY time capsule activity.
“I hope that people realize that history is being made every day and that everyone’s story matters,” Cramer says.