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 Pictured are Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society President Gina Gregory, left, and GWBHS Office and Activities Coordinator Cory Taylor. The GWBHS is accepting stories of local residents’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pictured are Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society President Gina Gregory, left, and GWBHS Office and Activities Coordinator Cory Taylor. The GWBHS is accepting stories of local residents’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo provided by Cory Taylor


GWBHS collects stories of residents’ pandemic experiences

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 1, 2020

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — For more than four decades, the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society has been a part of collecting history.

But this year, those who operate the society have found themselves a part of history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the effects was the shutdown of businesses and public institutions.

One of those institutions was the GWBHS.

Back in April, after the society had been closed to the public for three to four weeks, GWBHS Office and Activities Coordinator Cory Taylor, along with some board members, met to discuss potential projects.

According to Taylor, one of the projects discussed was a “collection of people dealing with what’s going on in the world, what’s going on in our state.”

From there, the idea was born to collect stories from community members affected by the pandemic.

“It is part of our broader project called ‘Collecting Memories,’” Taylor said. “We’re trying to hear from every corner of the community; all four communities — West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake, Keego Harbor and Sylvan Lake. It can be anything you want to submit that talks about your experience during the pandemic: what it’s like to become a stay-at-home parent, make sure your kids are going to school virtually, what it’s like to work with your spouse from home, if both of you are fortunate to be working from home. On the other hand, what it’s like for businesses and community organizations to either completely close to the public or have to change their entire operation to fit into the restrictions the pandemic has created.”

Community members can submit written documents, videos, photographs, songs or pieces of art.

There is no deadline for the project.

Taylor said most of the submissions thus far have been digital and are housed on the society’s internal online database. Eventually, she would like to put them in a public database, with the possibility of making a book out of them as part of the society’s collections.

“Our purpose is to not only collect history, but share history,” Taylor said. “We want to collect and preserve our history, and this is such a unique time in everyone’s history and the world’s history. Our communities are so small that we often get overlooked; but we have a very rich, diverse group of people that make up our four towns, and we want to preserve those stories for future generations.”

One group the society is interested in receiving submissions from is the Class of 2020.

“The Class of 2020 got hit pretty hard,” Taylor said. “We all did, but they missed out on their prom and their graduation. Just being able to walk across that stage, as silly as it sounds, it’s a huge milestone for high school graduates and college graduates. Getting that diploma for all that hard work is a huge thing, and to not be able to take part in that, it can be pretty devastating.”

Taylor recognizes the unique position the GWBHS is in to give people an outlet to share their stories.

“I hope we make an impact on the community,” she said. “That’s the big goal that we set for ourselves. … I hope this has a lasting legacy — that people can remember not only the pandemic, but remember how we got out of it, how we survived and the people that we’ve lost.”

It has yet to be determined when the GWBHS will re-open to the public.

Aside from the COVID-19 project, the society also has other ideas in the works.

“After this gets rolling a little more, then we’ll have other projects, like ‘Summer Memories,’ or ‘Going to the Keego Theatre,’” said GWBHS President Gina Gregory. “We’ve always been looking to have people tell us about their connections to their local history.”

Not every community has something like the GWBHS, and Gregory is appreciative of what it brings to the area.

“I think it’s so cool to connect a place where you live, to understand its history enhances life,” she said. “It enhances living in this area. We’re fortunate that volunteers have shared those feelings and taken the time and energy to collect these things from the past.”

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