D.C. Public Library Premieres Photo Exhibit Showcasing Early Months Of The Pandemic This week, DCPL released 88 photos taken by residents as part of its new "Archive This Moment" collection.
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NPR logo D.C. Public Library Premieres Photo Exhibit Showcasing Early Months Of The Pandemic

D.C. Public Library Premieres Photo Exhibit Showcasing Early Months Of The Pandemic

This week, DCPL released 88 photos that are now part of a new archive documenting the early days of the pandemic. People's Archive/Provided by D.C. Public Library hide caption

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People's Archive/Provided by D.C. Public Library

A bottle of hand sanitizer. An abandoned Metro station. A shuttered Ward 6 high school.

These are just a few of the images that D.C. Public Library collected from residents documenting the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in the District. And, this week, the library released 88 of these photos as part of its new "Archive This Moment" collection.

"Telling the District's stories of COVID-19 from the viewpoint of the people who experienced it makes the Archive This Moment DC collection an invaluable resource for the District," wrote Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the DC Public Library, in the press release.

"Some of the most important accounts of history are first-person," Reyes-Gavilan continued. "This collection will help future researchers understand how Washingtonians reacted to the pandemic, and how quickly it changed the way we all lived."

On March 25, the day after D.C. ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses, DCPL put out a call asking for images that told "the story of this moment." Over the next two months, the library received more than 2,000 images from social media, emails and through its website.

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The majority of the images are from April, when residents were just beginning to grapple with the notion that life might not be getting back to normal for a while.

Librarians are continuing to organize and catalog all the received material, and plan to release more photos from the collection at a later date. All items added to the collection have identifiers so they can be found easily within the digital database. Additionally, librarians saved the original tweets and Instagram posts that accompany the photos as PDF files in order to preserve the context, accompanying text and, yes, emojis.

All four quadrants of the District are represented in the images, the library says, including images featuring at least 18 neighborhoods across the city. When completed, the "Archive This Moment" collection will consist of images, audio recordings, videos and text documenting this unique moment in the region's history.

This project joins other notable archives that the library system has put together and made accessible to the public in recent years, including a D.C. punk music archive (which celebrated its five year anniversary last October) as well as one devoted to go-go music in honor of the Godfather of Go-Go Chuck Brown.

The Archive This Moment collection is housed online at Dig DC, which is the library's digital archives for digitized and born-digital special collections.

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