COVID-19: An Archivist at Home (Part 3)

It’s hard to believe that it has been 55 days since the global pandemic was declared. A part of me hoped that there would be no Part 3 to this COVID-19 blog series, but alas, here we are. Some days I feel like I have adjusted to this new normal and I feel at ease, relaxed even with the new slower pace of life. But then there are those other days where I peel myself out of bed and try to find something positive to focus on lest I sink into my anxiety. This article has helped on those bad days.

Over the past two weeks I have found that the stretches of positive normalcy are getting longer. I am no longer ping-ponging back and forth one day to the next. I am thankful for that (and I suspect my husband is too). But at the moment, I am waiting for some potentially devastating news from work and it’s difficult to keep it all in perspective. The baking my husband has been doing is certainly helping though! Who knew that baking would become a worldwide craze? Try to get a cake pan from anywhere – go ahead, I dare you to try. Yeast? Flour? Fugettaboutit.

I am a very lucky woman. This was as delicious as it looks.

Doom and gloom (and sugary coping mechanisms) aside, there does seem to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel with all of this (whether or not we are ready for it). Several provinces are beginning to ease restrictions and allowing for some businesses to re-open. There is talk of re-igniting the economy in a phased manner, though the phases differ across the country. But of course, the questions remains, “if you open, will they come“?  Here in BC, we didn’t experience the same extreme lock down as did other parts of Canada so our officials have not yet begun to make changes. We were always able to grab a chai latte to go, which was such a blessing on my once daily walks. Although I mourn the hopefully temporary demise of the “bring your own cup,” the small act of buying a warm drink and having a socially distanced chat with a human being face to face was such a sweet relief on some of the more difficult days.

May the archival advocacy be with you

On May 4th the International Council on Archives put out a statement in an effort to remind the world that “the duty to document does not cease in a crisis, it becomes more essential.” As I wait to hear about my professional future, the announcement of the statement helped me to remember that the work I do is important, regardless of the way it might be perceived sometimes. The ICA statement specifies that, “Decisions must be documented, records and data should be secured and preserved in all sectors, and the security, preservation, and access to digital content should be facilitated during the shutdown.” I am never sure about the efficacy of archival advocacy but it’s worth a shot and I hope someone is listening. You can read the full statement here.

Reference appointments and jazz hands

As talk of re-opening continues, I have been noticing discussions popping up on the listservs about how archival institutions might adjust their services going forward to ensure the safety of staff and researchers alike. The general consensus is that most are likely headed to an appointment-only model for the foreseeable future. I suspect the number of patrons will be limited for some time and cleaning will be ramped up. The City of Vancouver Archives has been experimenting with socially distanced research assistance through screen sharing whereby the reference archivist remains at their desk and helps patrons search the online database via screen share. This seems like an innovative solution that would limit personal contact. I suspect 2m markings on floors will be the new normal for us for quite some time. I suppose with that being the new norm at the grocery store, people will adjust quite easily. I wonder if we will ever shake hands again? My vote for a new permanent salute is jazz hands. Anybody with me?


Documentation Projects

I have continued to monitor the explosion of documentation projects around the world. It seems like everyone is getting in on the action and trying to preserve a piece of this pandemic. And apparently there is good reason for all this documentation. According to Karen Blair (Assistant professor of psychology at St. Francis Xavier University) “there’s a lot of research that shows us that writing about traumatic experiences is beneficial for us and that it helps us to process that stress while it’s actually happening.” (quoted in this CBC article) I know that my personal documentation efforts have been incredibly therapeutic and have helped me to make sense of all of this.

I was touched to be asked to take part in a webinar as part of the Royal BC Museum’s RBCM@Home series. Genevieve Weber and I discussed some of our favourite documentation projects and our own personal documentation initiatives. This was a lot of fun to put together. You can check out our webinar below and then I would recommended heading over to the RBCM YouTube channel to peruse all of the RBCM@Home videos.

Here are some of the most interesting projects I have discovered since my last blog post:

  • The Isolation Museum
    • “Being forced to stay home not only changes our relationship to each other, but also changes our relationships to our spaces. The Isolation Museum attempts to capture these changes by encouraging people to reflect on their spaces and to share their stories with each other”
  • A Journal of the Plague Year
    • “Allow this Journal of the Plague Year to become your personal diary–a place where you share moments of your life, along with hundreds of others to create a historical record of the pandemic.”
  • Company Three’s Coronavirus Time Capsule 
    • “A week-by-week response to the pandemic through the eyes of teenagers everywhere”
  • How Does BC Sound? COVID-19 BC Soundwaves 
    • “An open collection of sounds from BC during the COVID19 pandemic”

And now for the fun self-care stuff

Shout out to my husband for bringing this one to my attention. Hands-down, the award for the best thing I have seen in the past few weeks goes to Wes Tank who expertly raps Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Sox” over Dr. Dre beats. I think this was always what Theodor Geisel intended for his words. Please oh please watch it until at least the beetle part! You will not be disappointed.

In case that video wasn’t enough for you, the man has a WHOLE SERIES! Thank you Sir, thank you.

And speaking of legends…Captain Tom Moore raised over 30 million pounds for NHS charities by walking in his garden.


And then a shoe broke the internet. In an effort to raise money for food banks, John Fluevog designed a shoe in honour of British Columbia’s superstar Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. The website crashed within minutes of the shoe’s release. Nice work!

I hesitate to share this news story because while hilarious to some, to those of us in the GLAM world, this represented the fifth circle of hell…Apparently some well-meaning cleaner at a library in England replaced the library books on hundreds of shelves after cleaning them. How nice, you say? Well the person decided to re-arrange the books according to SIZE!

And to wrap up this blog post, below you will find the Twitter videos that made me smile in the past couple of weeks. This is no small feat and I thank the internet for its good work.


Let’s hope the light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting brighter over the next few weeks.

Stay safe everyone!


Cover Image: Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels