Efforts to document the pandemic for posterity have been under way everywhere since early in the year. Government agencies such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, and scientific institutions including the Pasteur Institute in Paris weren’t far behind the NLM. Their archives are being complemented by those of museums, libraries, historical societies and community groups. The global frenzy of collecting has even prompted talk of curatorial burnout.
Museum curators are on the lookout for discarded ventilators and failed prototype COVID-19 tests — but they must choose the moment they ask with care. “We can’t just say to busy people, ‘Would you stop developing the vaccine and talk to me about collecting stuff?’” says Natasha McEnroe, keeper of medicine at the Science Museum in London. “We have to tread very, very carefully.”