Beltrami County Historical Society asks community to document, share their experiences

BCHS Women in Winter Sports
The Beltrami County Historical Society has announced the opening of its first special exhibit of 2022: "Beltrami County Women in Winter Sports," featuring women athletes of various team and individual sports.<br/>

BEMIDJI -- As citizens across the country continue to encounter the unprecedented effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Beltrami County Historical Society is asking folks to document and share their experiences during these historic, albeit strange, times in northern Minnesota.

On March 28, the historical society published a self-interview project on its Facebook page, which includes a list of questions to motivate individuals to reflect on their daily lives amid the pandemic.

“We are in a historical moment and our experiences matter,” said Cyndi Carlson, executive director of Beltrami County Historical Society. “So we’re just asking people to take the time to write down how (the pandemic) affects them and how they have adjusted their daily lives.”

The responses will be submitted to the historical society’s archive as written records of the Beltrami County pandemic experience -- to be used and studied by future scholars and historians.

“It’s just about having that information for future generations to look at and to see what this was all about,” she added.


The project, which was inspired by a similar initiative launched by the Douglas County Historical Society, is suitable for all ages and also asks individuals to describe their fears, hopes and other emotions during this time.

As of yet, the historical society has not received any responses. However, Carlson said there is no deadline and no right or wrong answers.

“It's completely understandable to me why we haven't gotten responses yet, because everything has seemed so tentative,” Carlson said. “People are just adjusting to their lives, and that's part of the process. But, another point is it's maybe hard to write down how you're feeling if you don't know how you're feeling yet, so I think it takes a while to process what's going on and what the future will look like.”

Carlson said she expects future historians will have ready access to documentation of official measures taken in Beltrami County, such as the city council's closing of nonessential buildings and Gov. Walz’s stay-at-home order.

Nonetheless, she said she’s more interested in capturing the experiences of individuals -- to ensure they don't get ignored or lost to the annals of history.

“What is lost is how individuals are adjusting to their daily lives. It’s those small details that might get overlooked if they're not recorded, but they're equally as valuable,” Carlson said. “The pandemic affects each person differently, and I think it's really interesting to see the sense of community that has come up. Even though we’re all social distancing, everybody is in this together.”

To access the Beltrami County Historical Society's self-interview project, visit its Facebook page or email


Cyndi Carlson web art.jpg
Cyndi Carlson

Bria Barton covers travel and tourism for Forum News Service and is based at the Bemidji Pioneer. A South Carolina native and USC grad, she can be found exploring Minnesota’s abundance of towns, food and culture. Follow her on Instagram @briabarton.
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