Atlanta museum collects COVID-19 stories

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, May 19th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

BRIAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Brian Basham. The second to last episode of The Olasky Interview, Season 2, is now online. 

This week, WORLD’s editor in chief Marvin Olasky talks with Samuel Rodriguez. He’s president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. In this week’s episode, the two discuss the steady growth of the hispanic evangelical movement in this country and around the world. Check it out, wherever you get your podcasts.

EICHER: Coming up next on The World and Everything In It, preserving stories of the pandemic.

A few months ago, Atlanta’s History Center appealed to the public for personal accounts of life during the current crisis. People from across Georgia and around the world responded to that appeal. And WORLD reporter Myrna Brown has the story.

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: It’s Monday morning and Paul Crater starts another week of work in his corner of what used to be an upstairs bedroom. 

CRATER: My wife and two kids are all packed into an office and we’re all kind of working side by side in this 12×12 foot room. Each of us with our own devices, each of us at our own desks. So, it’s a lot more busy than my regular job because I’m not interrupted every 25 seconds at my regular job.

Crater is an archivist at the Atlanta History Center. In this role, he receives, organizes, and preserves records. He must determine if items like photographs, maps, speeches, and letters are significant to the collection.  

CRATER: What is the intellectual content of a particular group of records and then conveys a description of them in an inventory that’s publicly accessible online so people can discover them.

When the Atlanta History Center temporarily closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Crater says many people began looking to history for answers. 

CRATER: We started getting calls from news organizations wanting information or documents related to the 1918 flu pandemic. And we had none.  

That’s when museum leaders came up with the Corona Collective, an idea to collect pandemic stories and materials to one day share with future generations. 

CRATER: Normally, the collection materials that people give us are given to us many years or in many cases many decades after they were produced. And so collecting in real time is just a different experience. We’ve never done this.  

Twenty-four hours after launching the Corona Collective, Crater says submissions started pouring in from Georgia and beyond. 

NEW YORK MAN ENTRY: My name is Joseph and the purpose of this video is to talk to you about my own personal experience of COVID 19 Coronavirus.

Videos arrived from people like this 32-year-old athlete from New York who talked for 10 minutes about testing positive for the virus. 

NEW YORK MAN ENTRY: The most memorable symptom was a sharp pain in my lower back. 

Other entries include digital photographs and images of changing environments.

CRATER: People are blown away by the fact that there are no cars on the interstate. And so they take photographs of that or they take photographs of parks that might be closed. We get some images of medical professionals who send us selfies in their PPE.

Students and educators are also participating, sending in digital journals and podcasts about their distance learning experiences. 

STUDENT PODCAST: I think the first semester we got really close and it’s kind of hard not being able to continue that community. 

One of the most memorable items arrived in mid-April, a letter, written by Andrea Winkler. 

CRATER: It was just sort of a spontaneous moment that touched her. 

WINKLER: That day it was a little warm and so it was Holy Saturday.

Winkler lives in a neighborhood about 30 miles east of Atlanta. 


The middle-age dog owner spends most afternoons walking Bella, Justin, and Ginger-bear. The day before Easter, she was helping a neighbor care for her dog. 

WINKLER: And Duke was still horsing around the yard and I thought, I’m hearing singing. Does someone have a radio on? So, I tried to isolate it because I thought, oh that sounds like a hymn. No, that’s…wait a minute.. That’s Fairest Lord Jesus!  

The college professor says a creek and a line of trees stood between her and the sweet sounds. But Winkler says with so much delight in their voices, she didn’t need to see her neighbors faces.  

WINKLER: And here were my neighbors. They couldn’t go to their houses of worship for whatever reason, but that wasn’t stopping them. Their churches were online, the physical buildings were shuttered, but they were taking the idea that when two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, there there is a church, there Christ will be as well.  

Heading back to her house, Winkler says she paused once more to enjoy one last selection, another classic hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy. 

WINKLER: They sang every single verse! One of the ones I’d forgotten. And so, I found myself humming this. 

And she didn’t stop humming until the entire experience was on paper.

WINKLER: I really did. I immediately went there because again, so many people are posting, “oh this is driving me to drink. I can’t go out, I can’t do anything. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” And I thought, we need more stories about “we can.” 

Back in his converted Atlanta office, Crater agrees, as he analyzes the ever growing Corona Collective, so far, 400 digital items strong.

CRATER: One hundred years from now we will have something to show to the public. Just a slice of how Atlanta experienced this in 2020. I have been blown away by the clear realization that the people who are submitting know that they are in an historic moment. Their submissions really reflect a sense of community.

Reporting remotely for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown in Lawrenceville, Georgia.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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