Even though there were 300,000 recorded cases of the Spanish flu in Ontario in 1918-19, resulting in nearly 9,000 deaths, there is very little mention of it in church archives. There are references to it in parish magazines and a handful of photos, but that is about all.
Claire Wilton, the diocese’s archivist, doesn’t want that to happen again. Ms. Wilton, who runs the Archives at the Diocesan Centre in downtown Toronto, is trying to collect as many stories, letters, photos, videos and other items as she can about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s for the future,” she explains. “If we ever want to do an exhibit or look back at this time, we will have the material.”
She’s particularly interested in people’s experiences of church life during the pandemic – their worship and spiritual lives, their outreach and fundraising efforts, how they stayed connected with their churches and fellow parishioners, how the closure of their churches affected them, grieving the loss of loved ones, and celebrating events and important milestones.
She says keeping records in the archives is an important way to preserve them and to make them accessible to future generations. “People tend to think that everything’s on the Internet, but that’s not always the case. The archives are a great way to keep the material together in one location.”
She says archives can also help organizations such as the Church make decisions. “Archives have been incredibly useful in bringing the past to us and helping us make informed decisions. If a pandemic like COVID-19 ever comes again, we’ll be able to look back and see what worked and what didn’t.”
In addition to personal experiences, she has been keeping Bishop Andrew Asbil’s pastoral letters and a weekly Q&A bulletin that has been sent from the Diocesan Centre to all clergy. “They’ve been amazing – chock full of information. We’ll have a good record of how our Church, at the diocesan level, navigated through the current pandemic.”
She welcomes all material, either on paper or in electronic form. When sending in photos, be sure to include information about it and why it is special to you.
For more information, contact Ms. Wilton at [email protected].