The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and protests drawing attention to racial injustice and police brutality are two major facets of 2020 that won’t soon be forgotten.
At least this is the hope of Sarpy County Museum Executive Director Ben Justman, who is calling on area residents to provide the historical museum with tangible objects associated with the coronavirus, protesting or law enforcement that are Sarpy County specific.
Not newspaper clippings — those are easy enough for Justman and his colleagues to collect themselves. Rather, he’s asking people to get creative and dig deep to find the museum items that will truly encapsulate the pandemonium of 2020 for future generations.
“How can we capture this crazy moment (in time) in the Omaha metro?” Justman inquired, referencing COVID-19. “… We’ve reached out to some businesses and they’ve shared photos of things like cleared out grocery store shelves, we’ve gotten some receipts, some masks.
“But, what we are looking for is anything really outside of the newspaper … photographs, memories, scrapbooks, journals … even those drive-thru margarita receipts.”
Those interested in donating are encouraged to contact Justman at 402-292-1800 to schedule an appointment. Approved items can then be dropped off at the museum, 2402 Clay St. The Sarpy County Museum is open from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Prior to the coronavirus taking hold of the country and protests breaking out in hundreds of cities, Justman and his colleagues were gearing up to open a new display at the museum revolving around women’s history in Sarpy County.
“Women’s history has kind of been whittled down to a few paragraphs about suffrage and Rosie the Riveter,” Justman said. “And there’s so much more than that … We wanted to dig deeper.”
Unfortunately, as work was happening regarding that particular display, the coronavirus outbreak occurred, followed by civil unrest. So, a change of course was necessary, he said, to ensure that major events happening in Sarpy County communities are adequately preserved.
The museum, Justman said, has records of previous catastrophic illness, like polio and the Spanish Flu. However, it’s predominantly limited to newspaper clippings. The hope is that future generations will be able to peruse the museum and have concrete visuals of what transpired years before they were born.
Although the coronavirus pandemic and protesting aren’t necessarily “feel-good” parts of history, both are history, nonetheless, he said.
“History is messy,” Justman said. “And we want to make sure we tell all of it — good and bad.”