Contemporary History Collection

Learn about our Contemporary History project at the Putnam.

Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sun: Noon – 5 p.m.

Mon – Sat: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sun: Noon – 5 p.m.

History Is Happening Now

The Year 2020 will be talked about for generations to come. In addition to the Pandemic, the year brought Presidential impeachment, economic crisis, racial injustice, social unrest, unprecedented weather phenomena, and a politically divided country in an extraordinary election year. The year 2020 will be in the company of the Great Depression, the Great World Wars, and the 1960s civil rights era in the chronicles of historic moments of sacrifice and social change. As the Quad Cities’ Smithsonian Affiliate, we have been reaching out to our community to ask you to help us document this time in our history… ask yourself “what can we say to future generations about this extraordinary time in our history? What do we want them to know about us as Quad Citians?” So much has happened this year and we need your help to make sure we preserve this time in history in our community’s collection and archive. 

What have you done during this time? What did you do when the world was on lockdown? Did you keep a journal? Did you post hearts in your window like many did around the region? Maybe you made masks? You may have documented your time through videos, photos, written documents and 3-dimensional items that tell the story of this turbulent time. We would love for you to share those items with us. 

Artifacts and stories we have collected to date reflect stories as diverse as:

  • A digital diary and images of the community hearts campaign
  • Putnam member video of kids remote learning and a child’s submission about missing their friends during school closure
  • Vera French Community Mental Health poem about the impact of tragedy on mental health workers
  • Face coverings and documentation of the Putnam Museum Guild’s face coverings project
  • Driveway Birthday Celebration and a Pandemic wedding
  • Images of empty shelves in stores, a bottle of hand sanitizer and locally manufactured disinfectants
  • Stories and images of damage from the August Derecho
  • Arrival and administration of the COVID 19 vaccines

The collection will also include digital content with oral histories collected from different representatives from across our community including education, health care, manufacturing, small business, and more.

How Can You Support Our Community’s Contemporary History Collection? 

1)  Take our survey to help shape the preservation decisions related to this time in history. Click HERE to take the anonymous survey.

2)  Consider donating your story through written journals, short stories, or oral history… or do you have someone to recommend for oral history interviews? Interviews will be conducted virtually over Zoom for your safety and convenience.

3)  We continue to document this time in history and are still seeking personal stories, as well
as artifacts from protest rallies such as signs, Black Lives Matter shirts, business closure objects and signs, socially distancing signs, remote schooling material, and 2020 Election material. Use this form to make a digital contribution, or for more information, contact our curators: Christina Kastell or Christine Chandler

4)  Contribute a photo of you or your family in your face coverings and tell us what it means
to you by using the hashtag #putnampreserves on any form of social media.

What Will Happen with this Content? 

The Putnam Museum will induct this important content into its collection and archive to preserve.

it for future generations for research and for display and education, including anniversary commemoration. Many stories and images will be shared with our community more immediately through our website, social media, and a new Time Capsule exhibit that will involve our community every year in this kind of reflection and storytelling. Though inspired by the extraordinary 2020 year, this Contemporary History Collection and Time Capsule will be maintained annually, with our community co-curating the historical milestones of our community.

Please Note: The Museum & Science Center will be closed for maintenance, cleaning, and updates January 8 -12.

We will resume normal hours on Saturday (1/13). Thank you for your patience, understanding and continued support!

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