Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor fascism
In mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic struck New York City, my first inclination was to return to my summer camp roots and begin the practice of intentionally writing letters again. Amid this newly mandated isolation, letters seemed the natural way to continue to engage meaningfully (and safely) with others. Since then, I have written and received over 100 letters. Pandemic Post explores the way in which I (and others) have used letter-writing as an antidote to our new virtual world—how we have navigated and documented our experiences, grief, and anxieties of a global pandemic in the form of exchanged letters, each one offering a piece of shared humanity. Over the past six months, the materiality of writing and sending letters has felt of utmost importance, a tangible correspondence that leaves us with something to hold and to keep in this time of isolation. How might we think of letter writing during this historic moment as both the creation and dissemination of a personal archive, one scattered amongst the hands of those we write and send letters to, and one assembled from the fragments of those we receive letters from? Letter-writing requires a wholly different way of engaging and communicating with another person, one marked by time and distance and both delayed communication and gratification; it asks us to slow down and to think and act and write with intention, and then to give it away. And in this moment where our democracy is endangered and the US Postal Service is being threatened to be defunded, the mail has been charged with a new sense of timeliness and political urgency.
Thank you to those who have aided me through these past six months with your handwritten words and thoughts, and to those of you who have generously shared your own letters with me: AC, DK, EA, ELV, FJG, HJ, HL, KW, LC, MW, MC, MUG, NW, SL, SG, SL, SS, and TK. I thank you for giving me the unparalleled & simple joy of eagerly waiting by the mailbox.
If you would like to submit your own materials to the exhibit and/or to the Brown University Library COVID-19 Community Archive, please email [email protected]!
Caroline Cunfer is a first-year PhD student in American Studies and Public Humanities. She is an oral historian and has a passion for wax seals.