First Lady Frances Wolf: “Documenting the COVID-19 pandemic is imperative for the future of Pennsylvania.”

First Lady Frances Wolf encouraged Pennsylvanians to document their COVID-19 pandemic experience during a virtual conversation with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and State Library. This was the first conversation in a series titled, The Bigger Picture, an extension of One Lens: Sharing Our Common Views that hones in on the various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, connecting this extraordinary moment to the broader community.

The full conversation can be found on the One Lens Facebook page.

“Often, the history of a people, an event, or a period, is written by observers who stand apart from what they see, research, or analyze,” said First Lady Wolf. “But One Lens will be a photographic document captured by us, at the very moment of impact. Those who come after us and look back at this time for guidance, or out of simple curiosity, will be able to see what we saw, and feel what we felt during this time. Because of this, documenting the COVID-19 pandemic is imperative for the future of Pennsylvania.”

Conversation panelists included PHMC Executive Director Andrea Lowery, State Library Director Sarah Greene, Pennsylvania State Archivist Tyler Stump and Rare Collections Librarian Mike Lear.

“Everyone in the commonwealth is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but often in unique ways,” said Lowery. “This exhibit is particularly exciting, as it provides an opportunity to capture the voices of all Pennsylvanians in what we know will be an historic moment. Although this project is firmly rooted in the present, it will also help ground the way future Pennsylvanians remember this time. This truly will be the history of a community — the story told by these photos will be shaped by the diverse voices of today’s Pennsylvanians and reflect a narrative that is meaningful to them.”

Stump and Lear, who’ve both conducted extensive research on the 1918 pandemic, shared their findings on the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic and its impact in Pennsylvania.

The two historians also identified similarities and differences between the two historical events, emphasizing what we can learn from our past when we have the information. Additionally, the two discussed the kind of information that was missing, and the role Pennsylvanians play in ensuring this information is available for future generations.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PHMC has focused on making its programs and collections accessible through virtual programs and by expanding the holdings in its digital archives and museum collections databases. The State Library also offers digital collections strong in the fields of public administration, economics, political science, statistics, education, public services, as well as North American, United States and Pennsylvania history.

“Everyone’s story is important in this historic time,” said Greene. “The State Library of Pennsylvania is excited to be a part of this project and preserve these stories for future generations.”

One Lens: Sharing Our Common Views is a statewide virtual photo exhibit organized by the First Lady’s Office in partnership with PHMC, the PA Council on the Arts, and the PA Tourism Office. It celebrates the hard work and commitment of all Pennsylvanians as we continue our fight against COVID-19. The submission period opens to the public Monday, February 8 and will remain open through Monday, March 8, 2021. The full exhibit will be released on Friday, March 19, 2021. More information about One Lens can be found on the website.

Information on future virtual conversations for The Bigger Picture and other updates can be found on the One Lens Facebook and Instagram pages.