Cookeville History Museum documenting local COVID-19 quarantine stories

COOKEVILLE – “What was life like during the pandemic of 2020?”

Cookeville History Museum is preparing for the time when future generations will ask that question by collecting as many local “quarantine stories” as possible.

“We are all experiencing a new, shared history as COVID-19 transforms many aspects of daily life,” Beth Thompson, Cookeville museums manager, said. “We sometimes get stuck in the mindset that ‘history’ has to have happened 50 or 100 years ago, but history is happening now, and it is important to preserve people’s stories, experiences and feelings about the changes.”

Every story matters since each offers a unique perspective.

“The realities of this safer-at-home time are vastly different for many people,” Thompson said. “They range from devastating job losses to funny stories of quarantine home schooling and haircuts. They’re all part of the 2020 narrative. In addition, we must consider that our local story is quite different from that of the rest of the country when you factor in the devastating tornado that shook us to our core just a few weeks before the lockdown.”

The time is now – while thoughts and feelings are fresh – to document Cookeville’s quarantine history.

Physical materials are being collected as well – things like artwork, photos, journals, poetry and recordings that reflect impressions of current events.

“A great example is the sign at Broast Coffee that says, ‘Free hugs! Oh, wait…’” Thompson said. “Things like that should be saved as mementos of this very specific time in our collective story.”

Of course, the history museum itself experienced the effects of COVID-19 and social distancing. It had big plans for spring and summer – art exhibits, a storytelling festival, hands-on children’s activities and much more. But those plans changed when it, like Cookeville Leisure Services’ other cultural arts and recreation facilities, had to close for several weeks.

The museum adapted.

“We found ourselves having to get creative and think outside the box for online content on our various social media platforms,” Thompson said. “From new features like ‘Hometown Cookeville Trivia’ and ‘One Word Wednesday’ to a series of Cookeville Cemetery Walks script readings, we were able to stay connected to our audience while gaining new viewership and followers. Many of these will continue as we move forward.”

The museum is seeking the following information from those wishing to share their COVID-19 stories:

1. Name, address, email, phone number.

2. What would you like to share so future historians can analyze the COVID-19 pandemic and educate future generations?

3. How have COVID-19 and safer-at-home guidelines impacted your family life? Your employment or small business? Your social life?

4. What physical objects should be preserved?

5. Have you created artwork, taken photos, written poetry or made recordings that reflect your impressions of current events? Are you keeping a journal or diary? (If so, would you like us to contact you about donating any of these items to the history museum?)

6. Have you or a family member become ill?

7. How have normal tasks (such as grocery shopping) changed?

8. What have you done to stay in good spirits?

9. What have you struggled with while under the safer-at-home guidelines?

10. How did you explain the pandemic to your children?

11. What were your children’s reactions to being out of school? What have you taught them at home?

12. If the museum organizes a future project about COVID-19 and its impact on Cookeville and Putnam County, may we share your responses publicly?

For more information, email, call 931-520-5455 or visit

“Please share this information with family and friends,” Thompson said. “We want as many perspectives as possible.”

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