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Write it down

April 2, 2020

Do you keep a journal (whether online or on paper)? We’re living through history during this COVID-19 pandemic. (I can’t get the Hamilton song “The Schuyler Sisters” out of my head, with its recurrent line “History is happening.”)

That’s my first diary, pictured at right. I thought it was only for very special events. The first entry I wrote in it: “A dog came to our hows today.” about a stray that stopped by. (A big deal when you are a little kid living in a small town in Maine!) Due to this “only special things” approach, this diary lasted me a long, long time and gradually the events became less and less special and the book filled and was eventually replaced with other books.

In these strange times, are you writing down things — special or not?

Philadelphia’s Library Company, with its extensive archive of materials relating to American society and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries, recently posted this suggestion of starting a journal. Your day to day activities now are/will be part of history!


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In the historical record, when we see notes about the weather, a shopping list, records of births, marriages, and deaths—the mundane details of a past human life— they can jolt us out of our present moment, fire up our imaginations, and bring forth new meaning and perspective. When future beings look to the records of our lived experiences to help understand their own present, similarly mundane details are likely to become poignant testimony about our lived reality. Consider the potential future significance of journals and diaries created in the present moment, while we live under quarantine during the global pandemic COVID-19. We invite you to create your own written record of some aspect of your life during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be as simple or elaborate as you want: Note the weather from the window that you look out of every day. Keep track of your Zoom appointments and school work. Track your daily activities like workouts, books you are reading, or TV shows you are watching. Write out your grocery lists: What do you need? Was the toilet paper sold out? Like to draw? Make a sketch. Like to cut and glue? Make a scrapbook. Anything goes! To read Andrea Krupp's full post about diaries and journals, find some inspiration from our collections, and download instructions on how to make your own pocket notebook, follow the #linkinbio. If you choose to share some pages from your journal on social media, please tag us @librarycompany and #notetofutureself, we’d love to see what you do. Poor Will’s pocket almanack, for the year 1828. [Philadelphia]: Kimber & Sharpless, [1827] with manuscript notes of Mary Robinson Morton. #BensLibrary #CoronaDiaries #StayInside #lcponline

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellen Carlson permalink
    April 5, 2020 2:20 pm

    What an important thing to think about. I’m a terrible journal-keeper but I can see the value of getting my act together and doing it. My sons are young men just on the cusp of launching into their adult lives during this incredibly tumultuous time. I have so many hopes and fears associated with them at this time. Journaling about this might just be the process I need to get me through.

    Sabra, thanks for sharing this! I hope that you and your boys are well and finding your way through crazy time. I know that you are in exactly the same spot as me.

    Ellen Carlson Sent from my iPad


    • May 3, 2020 12:36 pm

      Ellen: I’ve got journals dating back to childhood — but got pretty bad about in the past decade or so. My new year resolution was to get back to it — little did I know about the looming event of historic proportions! Pulling out a pen to send you a card with an old-fashioned stamp — while we still have a postal service!

  2. Suzanne Harlan Andrews permalink
    May 3, 2020 12:21 am

    I am an 85 year old widow living in south-western Ohio. Since I ‘shut my self in’ on March 13th, I have been dabbling in my family’s genealogy to occupy my time. My cousin discovered your 72 page Generation List. My great, great grandfather was Jesse Van Ducer (Duser) of Yates County, New York. His mother was Nellie Fitzwater. She is number 50 on your list. What a find that List is. By any chance did your research reveal anything about the Van Dusers or have any Van Duser family members contacted you since you posted your list? My cousins and I have not been able to learn anything about that branch of the family.

    • May 3, 2020 12:38 pm

      Suzanne: glad you are staying safe and sounds like you are well-occupied with the mysteries and discoveries of genealogy! Glad my dad’s research could be of use. You might check if your local library can provide free access to and see if you can learn more about your Van Dusers that way. Good luck!

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