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Los Angeles Museum Switches Focus To Life During Coronavirus Crisis


Like a lot of us, Tyree Boyd-Pates has changed up his work routine. He's the curator at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles. And normally, he's focused on the past. But right now, he's looking at the present.

TYREE BOYD-PATES: We are looking for home recipes, and we're looking for digital images of people's facemasks. We're also looking for photography.

KING: Boyd-Pates heads the Autry's Collecting Community History Initiative. They are creating a rendering of life in the American West during COVID-19.

BOYD-PATES: It's of the utmost importance to collect objects from the present because this moment won't be the same tomorrow.


The museum is closed. But during this time, they've been assembling a digital collage of quarantine.

BOYD-PATES: The anniversary of a couple who couldn't celebrate with their families so they took a portrait with their dog in their living room.

KING: And it's not just adults who are getting in on the action. Boyd-Pates got a diary entry from a 6-year-old who is sick of being stuck inside.

BOYD-PATES: The child had said that when they were documenting the moment that they didn't go anywhere because it ranned (ph) all day. So we played indoors.

KING: The Autry is releasing the digital project bit by bit on its blog for the moment, but a gallery exhibit is planned for when it's safe to reopen.

INSKEEP: Boyd-Pates says the project helps people come to grips with this moment we're living through.

BOYD-PATES: It also allows them to be their own curatorial voices for their own communities and seeing what archival materials should have always been in museum archives.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALE FALL'S "ON RIVER, ON ROUTE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.