After over two years of living with and under COVID-19, officials with Missoula County and the University of Montana have begun the 'COVID Documentation Project' to record for posterity the events and reactions to the pandemic for the benefit of future generations.

KGVO News spoke with Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier on Thursday for details on the documentation project, after commenting on the fact that few substantive records exist from the last flu pandemic of 1918.

“It was the 1918 flu pandemic over 100 years ago,” said Strohmaier. “That was the best example we've had of how the nation responded to such a thing. So what we found ourselves struggling with is having to look at records of 100 years ago of how communities responded and wishing, ‘If only they had collected certain documents or documented their experience we might know and have a better idea of how to respond to this COVID-19 situation’.”

Strohmaier said that mistake would not be repeated in 2022.

“It struck me and others that it would be a completely missed opportunity if we did not, in real time, document our experience of how we were responding to and living with COVID,” said Commissioner Strohmaier. “The reason for this is so that we can be more resilient and responsive to future crises like this.”

Strohmaier said the University of Montana has partnered with the county to provide their facilities and expertise in chronicling the pandemic from all sides, both government and the public.

“Our main partner is the University of Montana and the Public History Program called the Mansfield archives,” he said. “As a main component of this project, the Public History program at the University of Montana is conducting oral history interviews of folks throughout the community to help get exactly what you're describing, including the breadth of experiences, which is really all over the map as we all know.”

Strohmaier said the pandemic affected almost every aspect of everyday life for Missoula area residents.

“There were certainly the public health aspects of what it was that we've lived through, but there are also the economic, the social and the supply chain. I mean, you name it,” he said. “So to have a repository of information, which reveals that it is pretty unprecedented that we are doing this. Not many other places around the country that I'm aware of have done something quite like this. I think this will be a gift for future generations.”

Click here to access the project.

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