Collecting Community History: The West During COVID-19

Ongoing

About the Exhibition

This digital exhibition illuminates how during a 21st-century global pandemic, communities across the American West used art, food, technology, political activism, and space to assert their agency and cultivate identity during the emergence of COVID-19, the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19, a global pandemic and California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home order, mandating that all residents stay in their homes except to go to an essential job or shop for essential needs.

As other states across the American West implemented stay-at-home orders, the Autry museum’s curators saw the proliferation and promotion of people’s everyday experiences during the emergency across social media. As a result, to archive these moments in contemporary history, the museum established the Collecting Community History Initiative (CCHI)—a crowdsourced archive to allow communities of all kinds across the West to help preserve this history digitally. 

Spanning the expanse of the pandemic across three iterations—COVID-19, Black Lives Matter protests, and electoral politics, each submission centered on the lived experiences of various inhabitants across the region whose voices are necessary to archiving the era. Using digital ephemera, this digital exhibition illuminates how during a 21st-century global pandemic, communities across the American West used art, food, technology, political activism, and space to assert their agency and cultivate identity during the emergence of the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history.