San Diego History Center Starts Documenting Life in Times of COVID-19

The San Diego History Center in Balboa Park is asking San Diegans to share personal reflections of what it’s like to live through the coronavirus pandemic

Diavanni Taylor/San Diego History Center

We are living through history. Now, a couple of months into the coronavirus pandemic, the San Diego History Center is starting to document what’s it’s like to live through these trying times, story by story, person by person.

 The San Diego History Center, located in the heart of Balboa Park, has launched a new website called “History Happening Now: Share Your Story.”

There, the center is asking San Diegans to help create a record of what’s happening in the region right now. The center wants locals to share personal reflections and insights – plus photos and videos – of their lives as we continue to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

The submission form on the website says responses will be archived as part of the permanent collection of the San Diego History Center. Because, after all, one can learn a whole lot from history.

“From looking at the past we know – we as a community – will weather this crisis and assist our fellow and future San Diegans,” the website says.

From looking at the past we know -- we as a community -- will weather this crisis and assist our fellow and future San Diegans.

San Diego History Center

The submission form asks questions like “how has COVID-19 changed your daily life?” and “how is your neighborhood/social circle responding to the crisis?”

Over the past week, the San Diego History Center said it has gotten hundreds of submissions from people all over the county, of all backgrounds and ages.

“The information residents have provided will give future researchers primary sources and allow the San Diego History Center to document an important moment in history and reflect on how residents responded to COVID-19,” the center explained.

The stories are being shared here.

So far, the submissions include stories of kindness, gratitude, and love for essential workers. There are stories of lessons learned. There are also glimpses into what it’s like to celebrate a birthday in the midst of a pandemic – face masks, latex gloves, stay-at-home parties and all.

Kids are also sharing their stories, like Diavanni Taylor, of southeast San Diego.

She titled her submission, “Life Changes for a Kid.” In it, she talks about living with her grandparents after her mother’s death and how she can’t wait to see her friends in person. She mentions Zoom and distance learning – both things that have become part of our new normal as we try to stay connected even though we're apart.

To share your experience with the San Diego History Center, you can submit your story here. The center said those submissions can include voice recordings, photos, and written responses.

The San Diego History Center, like all other cultural organizations and museums at Balboa Park, remains temporarily closed due to restrictions stemming from the pandemic.

Shelby Gordon, a spokesperson for the San Diego History Center, told NBC 7 that for this reason, the center is only collecting stories at this time, not physical items or artifacts.

Gordon said it’s been amazing to see so many San Diegans sharing relatable insight from their personal journeys.

“We also hear from people (mostly teachers) who have assigned their students to journal during this time, wanting to forward those documents for us to include in our permanent archive,” Gordon told NBC 7.

In the future, when the center is cleared to safely reopen, there is talk about the coronavirus pandemic stories being developed into a physical exhibition, Gordon said.

The San Diego History Center was established in 1928 by businessman and civic leader George W. Marston who built the Junipero Serra Museum, which he gifted to the city a year later. The Serra Museum was the site of the Historical Society and Research Archives for 60 years and, in 1982, its collections were moved to Balboa Park. In 2010, the institution became formally known as the San Diego History Center, and in 2013 it became a Smithsonian Affiliate.

We, as a community, have been here before.

San Diego History Center

The center sees about 150,000 visitors each year across its Balboa Park location and the Junipera Serra Museum, which still stands in Presidio Park in the Old Town San Diego area. Its collections include 45 million documents, 2.5 million historic photographs, and many more important, historic artifacts about life in San Diego.

And being the keepers of local history, the center knows these difficult times, too, shall pass. They always do.

“We, as a community, have been here before,” read a statement from the San Diego History Center. “Be it a pandemic, earthquake, fire or flood, we have come through adversity supporting each other, our nation and the world.”

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