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The Gallatin History Museum is full of handwritten letters. Its archive numbers in the thousands and dates back decades. And now, it wants to add the thoughts of Gallatin County residents and visitors about living through COVID-19 to its collection.

“We wanted a way to be able to capture, in real time, what our community was experiencing and then be able to archive those materials,” said Cindy Shearer, the executive director of the Gallatin History Museum. “I have no idea what all we will get, but I think the potential is huge.”

Shearer said the idea came from her staff at the museum and a brainstorming session about how to keep the public involved while the museum is temporarily closed because of the virus. The museum began accepting submissions Monday, all of which will be added to the archives. Submissions can include drawings and photographs in addition to letters.

Shearer said the museum is accepting emailed submissions. as well, though handwritten letters are preferred.

“When families come in, or people come in to do research, the things that are the most poignant for people and seem to mean the most is the handwritten word,” she said. “There’s just something special about (it).”

The submissions will be added to the museum’s archives, which include more than 20,000 historic images. Shearer said she hopes by collecting the valley residents’ thoughts about the virus and life during the pandemic, they’ll be preserved for generations to come.

“Forty years from now when someone comes in and is doing a research project or is interested in looking up something from their family ... they may be able to get a little glimpse of what’s going on right now,” said Shearer.

She said she hopes the project will provide an opportunity for students and teachers doing remote schooling to work on something together.

“I’m thinking this would be a really cool project for some of those classes, as well, and see what children’s take is on either what’s going on in the world or what’s going on in their homes,” she said.

It can also be a way to show people who are feeling isolated, scared or angry that they’re not alone.

“It might be a way to bring our community together that way,” Shearer said.

Submissions to the Gallatin History Museum’s Community Memoir project can dropped off at the museum in the box near the door or sent in the mail to 317 W. Main St., Bozeman, 59715. Emailed submissions can be sent to media@gallatinhistorymuseum.org.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.