• Kyodo

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A number of museums across Japan have started collecting materials related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, such as face masks and fliers, to keep a record of everyday life during the outbreak and pass on as a legacy to future generations.

The move comes as museums realize they have hardly any record of the Spanish flu epidemic, which caused an estimated 20 million to 50 million deaths worldwide roughly 100 years ago.

In the Hokkaido town of Urahoro, residents have donated about 200 items to a public museum in response to a request in February. The items include a flier informing residents of the cancellation of a festival, coupons for takeout meals and cloth face masks distributed by the central government.

“Our daily lives will be part of history. We’d like to collect as many items as possible before they are thrown away,” said Makoto Mochida, the 47-year-old curator at the town museum.

“When we look back on this era in the future, those materials will help us objectively examine it,” he said.

In the city of Suita, Osaka Prefecture, a museum is displaying medical gowns and face shields to protect against the virus and a photo showing a long line of people at a drug store to purchase masks.

“We would like to record what was happening (during the pandemic) and provide ways for future generations to learn about the current era,” said Kenji Saotome, the 46-year-old curator at Suita City Museum.

The National Diet Library in Tokyo is archiving virus-related online data of public offices.

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum at Waseda University in Tokyo has been asking theaters and drama groups to donate leaflets and scripts of the plays that were canceled or suspended due to the pandemic.

Akihiro Morihara, a 54-year-old senior official at the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum, which is also collecting materials related to the pandemic, said, “If there had been records of the Spanish flu at the grassroots level, they might have provided a clue as to how to combat the current infection.”

“Disasters and epidemics repeatedly occur, but people soon forget them. We would like to create opportunities to look back on the current era through exhibitions,” he said.

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