SAN ANTONIO – Although the stories of quarantine, business shutdowns, virtual school and work from home may now seem all too common, the Witte Museum wants to document it. They are documenting oral histories, photographs and objects of how people in San Antonio responded to the needs of others during the pandemic.
One of the first stories to be included is that of hunger and how one pantry ignited hope. The Jovita Idar Pantry and Fridge on the city’s West Side is celebrating its one-year anniversary. Through a donation from the Be The Change TX, organization, founders Rhys, Elle and Ale opened the pantry for the community to provide extra food and funds. Their work has inspired others to help and has since become part of history.
The original wooden structure of the community pantry was accepted as part of the the Witte Museum’s permanent Texas History Collection, to represent people from all walks of life in San Antonio.
“What is our story going to be in a 100 years?” Amy Fulkerson, chief curator said. “What will be left of this time period so that we can look back and say these are the ways that we came together, these are the ways that we struggled, and these are the stories of the everyday human being living in San Antonio during this time.”
The collection of stories began as part of the museum’s Rapid Response Collection to show how neighbors stepped up to help one another.
“We had a group of interns that were working with us here at the Witte Museum,” Fulkerson said. “One of our wonderful interns, Madeleine, who was a student at UTSA, did a fantastic oral history to gather the story of how the pantry started, and how it grew into a network with other pantries around San Antonio.”
According to a recent post on the pantry’s official Instagram page, “In one year, Jovita Idar Pantry and Fridge has helped open seven sister pantries, provided fridges and fridge cabinets to four community fridges, and raised thousands for SA LGBTQ and pantry restocks, not to mention our Funds4Fridges project.”
The original pantry was officially gifted to and accepted by the Museum. It can now be viewed by the community through an appointment at the Witte’s B. Naylor Morton Research and Collections Center. It will later be part of a larger exhibition to celebrate the museum’s 100th anniversary in 2026.
Now, the work to collect more stories and artifacts are needed to complete the collection.
“(We want) stories from (people of) all walks of life. Doctors, nurses, school teachers, stay at home parents,” Fulkerson said. “What was it like to to homeschool your children during the pandemic? These are all relevant stories that seem everyday and common now, and our worry is that people will think of them as not worthy of a museum, but they truly are.”
You can email stories@WitteMuseum.org to submit a story, photos or video in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.