In Your Own Words: COVID-19 in T&T

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On Thursday 12th March 2020, the Minister of Health, the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed Trinidad and Tobago's first imported case of the Novel Coronavirus officially named COVID-19. The virus first presented over 9,000 miles away in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The announcement of Trinidad and Tobago’s first case brought with it the inevitability that our nation was being directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to save lives, the Government and citizens alike were forced to quickly adapt to the “new normal”, Educational institutions, places of worship, non-essential public and private businesses were closed, and sporting activities and other cultural events with large gatherings were suspended as our country braced for the unknown future. During this time of uncertainty and stress, NALIS' Heritage Library is seeking to document the experience of Trinbagonians as they transitioned to alternative learning formats, responded to government’s Stay at Home order, worked from home in order to ensure business continuity and applied for grants as a result of job loss. It is important that we capture the resilience and creativity being demonstrated by government, businesses, community groups, and the average citizen as they work towards ensuring our survival and that our communities remain engaged, entertained and educated at all times.

The International Council on Archives (ICA) in its response to COVID-19 has stated that “The duty to document does not cease in a crisis, it becomes more essential”. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has indicated that several countries have issued orders for meticulous preservation of records related to the pandemic and is asking that countries like ours with Memory of the World Committees take an active role in this process. NALIS’ Heritage Library Division like many other libraries, archives and institutions with interest in documentary heritage aims to capture and preserve our country’s history as it unfolds. With this in mind, the Heritage Library Division has launched its “ In your own Words: COVID-19 in T&T” project.

We are interested in collecting your stories, experiences, and expressions presented in your own words. Your submissions can include, but are not limited to;

  • Written documentation such as journals, diaries, poetry, email and letters.
  • Visual artforms including paintings, drawings, photographs, videos.
  • Spoken word and music.
  • Social media posts, memes and parodies.

These can be uploaded via our online  SUBMISSION FORM (check out our tips on getting started). Please note, a selection of materials submitted through this form will be shared via NALIS’ website and social media accounts.

Remember, it’s your story to tell. Whether it is a photograph depicting social distancing measures implemented by businesses, or a new business you started in response to the pandemic. Perhaps you want to share your experience being, or living with an essential worker or your work from home routines, benefits or challenges. Our goal in this project is to capture the shared experience of Trinbagonians in a real and authentic format. Picture this, 50 years from the date of your submission in the year 2070, a researcher is at the Heritage Library viewing your journal, photograph or painting in an effort to understand the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic as presented “ In your own words”. This is why your contribution is of such importance to us, as the material we preserve will ensure that persons in the future can study, share, and learn from our collective experience. While at this time we will be only accepting digital submissions, we hope to eventually collect physical objects such as journals, documents, flyers, signs and much more when it is safe to do so.

The Heritage Library Division, thanks you for your willingness to contribute, and we implore you to stay safe while documenting outdoors. Please adhere to all issued safety precautions, such as social distancing, to minimise the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to your submissions.