NEWARK, NJ — Shoppers standing in line outside Seabra's grocery store waiting to be ushered inside. Withered flowers resting on a windowsill unwatered since the lockdown commenced. The name of a dreaded foe written on the surface of a concrete wall: COVID-19.
These vignettes may seem like ordinary pieces of life under quarantine by now, but to Tom Ankner, they’re the latest snapshots added to the archive project he’s spearheading for the Newark Public Library.
“A number of libraries and historical societies have begun collecting artifacts to create a collection of materials related to this time in history. It’s a really unique experience we’re going through right now, the only one in any of our lifetimes we’ve had since 1918,” he said.
Ankner, the director of the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center at NPL, said Newark’s archive is focused on the people, places and things in Newark during the coronavirus. He’s asking anyone who lives, works or goes to school in Newark to submit “personal reminiscences” of their time in quarantine.
According to Ankner, these contributions can be in any medium and can include photos, poems, artwork or writing. For this project, the library is also searching through social media and taking screen grabs of posts from Newakers related to the pandemic.
It’s a new way of working for a library, which Ankner says is not the kind of profession that lends itself to working from home. NPL has greatly increased its online presence in the weeks since it was forced to close, making more resources available online as well as electronic registration of library cards.
The result of isolation for Newark’s library system is a kind of virtual library that allows them to e-books, stream video and use research tools from home.
NPL is taking submission for its special archive until May 31. All contributions must be submitted electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center, Newark Public Library, 5 Washington St., PO Box 630, Newark, NJ 07101.