Display of masks at the musuem.
Display of masks at the musuem.

Takeout menus. Directions for attending a funeral. A leaflet from a local shrine, announcing the cancellation of summer festivals.

These humble, everyday artifacts of life in the pandemic have found a home in the Historical Museum of Urahoro, in Hokkaido, northern Japan, a town of just 4,500 residents that lacks a McDonald's or movie theater.

But thanks to the museum's curator, Makoto Mochida, it has a repository of the dross of the moment, stuff that may tell future generations what it was like to live in the time of COVID-19 - how life was profoundly changed with social distancing and growing fears over the outbreak.

"I am fascinated by how things connect with people," Mochida said.

Some people are surprised he's hoarding what appears to be garbage, said Mochida, who has problems throwing away things at home, too.

"Things furnish an excellent way to accurately archive history," he said.

So there are documents that show how children were taught to shift to online schooling. And instructions, complete with diagrams, on how to make a mask from a handkerchief.

Several hundred objects have been collected so far, after a call went out to residents.

In the wake of the last great pandemic - the so-called Spanish flu of 1918-19, which killed more than 50 million people globally - letters and diaries provided insight into daily life.

But these days, those analog communications have all but vanished. And their digital versions, like emails and social media posts, are all but lost in a sea of cyberspace, Mochida said.

So it is left to Mochida to curate the flotsam and jetsam of the coronavirus.

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Free Press Journal