The Swift Current Museum is using a photographic contest to collect images of the many ways that people have passed the time while staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The closing date for the photo contest is Sept. 15 and various prizes can be won. These images will become part of the museum’s historical record of the pandemic and selected images will be used in a pandemic time capsule and in the next temporary exhibit that opens this fall.
The museum re-opened on Aug. 24 after being closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 public health restrictions. Stephanie Kaduck, the museum’s education and public programs coordinator, was working on the new fall exhibition when she got the idea for the photo contest from a colleague.
“I wanted to do a first new exhibition that was a little bit lighthearted and so I decided I should do an exhibition about things that people did during the quarantine,” she explained. “I had lots of interesting information, but I was very low on photographs, which we rely on heavily for our exhibitions.”
Her colleague suggested that they should start a photo contest as a way to receive photos for the exhibition.
“I thought that's just genius and so we figured out how to set it up, what the rules would be for people to submit photographs and so far, so good,” she said. “What this means is that not only have people already expressed interest in seeing the show, because it's about them, but it also gives us information for our archives that 100 years from now is going to be invaluable.”
The new exhibition will reflect on people’s responses to the pandemic, including the various things they have been doing to keep busy while they were staying at home.
“The situation isn't lighthearted, but what people chose to do when they were stuck at home, is,” she said. “Everybody started baking bread and then there was no yeast, so people thought then I'm going to try sour dough. … One photograph that we've received is a girl who's doing a dance class online. People were kind of ingenious in finding things to entertain themselves. So I am going to mention that some of the people weren't stuck at home, that they were the essential services and that sort of thing, but there's going to be a large focus on what people did to entertain themselves.”
The purpose of the Swift Current Museum is to collect artefacts and to create exhibitions about the history of the city and surrounding area. It is therefore also important from that perspective to preserve information about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It's important to record it, because 50 or 100 years down the line, people are going to know that something happened and they're going to want information about it,” she said. “As a museum it's our job to keep that information, to present things that are local in nature rather than just relying on global assessments.”
The collection of information and artefacts will ensure that future generations will be able to have a local perspective on the pandemic, because that local information will often get lost over time when history is written.
“It will be easy to find on Wikipedia or whatever replaces it in 100 years that it started in China and then it went to Italy and then it spread worldwide and the U.S. was in a terrible state, but they're not going to mention Swift Current,” she said.
Kaduck knows from her own experience how difficult it can be to find information about the impact of major historic events on the local level. It has been difficult to find information about the impact of the 1918 flu pandemic on Swift Current.
“The sad thing about 1918 is that all that we have is a couple of newspaper articles,” she said. “There are no photographs. And so I couldn't really do even a Facebook post about it, because here's this one article that we have, and all the photographs available are from other places in the world.”
She therefore wants to make sure there will not be a similar challenge in the future when people look for information about what happened in Swift Current and area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We're also going to put together a time capsule,” she noted. “We haven't worked out the details for that, but it will include information from what the city was doing and some of the photographs that we've collected and that sort of information, and setting a date when people can open it and see what's there.”
All photographs submitted to the contest must have been taken within the province of Saskatchewan. All entries must include a signed release for any identifiable person or persons in the images or otherwise approval from their guardian. Children under 18 require parental or guardian consent to submit photos.
“In terms of security, the individuals decide what photos they want to send and a lot of the photographs that I've received of children are distant or I can see their backs,” she noted. “So if people want to show their child's face, that's fine, but if they don't, that's fine too. Some of the photographs we've got have just been situations, like the half-build puzzle and there aren't people in the photograph, or a loaf of bread. People don't have to be in the photographs. It's just a matter of keeping a record of the kinds of things that people were doing.”
All photographs have to be in the JPG (jpeg) file format and should include a brief description with details of what took place. It should include any funny or interesting details related to the activity in the image.
Kaduck is still hoping to receive submissions from several age groups that have so far been absent from the contest entries.
“What I'm missing is the late teens, early twenties people and seniors, the people who actually had to shelter in place,” she said.
She felt the entries from the younger age groups will help to highlight how they have been keeping busy during the pandemic, because they are very adept at using technology and they engaged in various online events for younger people.
Submissions to the contest will remain the property of the photographer, but the Swift Current Museum will reserve the right to use entries into perpetuity without cost.
“We reserve the right to use these photos in advertising and in future exhibitions and so on, but we do not take ownership of them and so we would not be selling these photographs,” she explained. “The ownership remains with the person who took the picture.”
The first 100 submissions will receive a gift from the museum. Images selected for the upcoming exhibition will receive a $5 gift certificate to use in museum’s gift shop and one grand prize winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to the gift shop.
The entry deadline is Sept. 15. Entries can be submitted by giving a like to the Swift Current Museum Facebook page and then sending the images through Facebook messenger or entries can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The museum is now open to visitors, but they need to follow pandemic rules to keep everyone safe. Visitors need to sanitize and wear a mask when they enter the museum. There are masks available to visitors who do not have their own. There are directional markers on the floor to ensure visitors maintain physical distancing during their tour of the museum.
There are currently no group tours, but Kaduck already did a virtual tour with SaskAbilities Summer Fun participants and she is happy to do similar tours with other groups. She is also doing downtown walking tours and historic cemetery tours with small groups this fall for as long as the weather remains mild. To arrange for a virtual tour of the museum or a historic walking tour, contact Kaduck at 306-778-4812.