Capturing the history of the Panama Canal through the words of those that lived and worked there has been an important part of the Panama Canal Museum Collection’s (PCMC) mission since 2010. These first-hand accounts serve important roles in preserving the past as well as in the enrichment of present day exhibits and classroom instruction. The first significant campaign towards this goal coincided with the 2014 Centennial Celebration of the Canal’s opening, and was part of a partnership with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) that continued into 2015. In 2019, after a brief pause, PCMC began preparing to restart the oral history program. Months of planning created the necessary, behind the scenes framework, and we started conducting interviews again in Spring 2020, but our work, along with most of the world’s, dramatically changed with the arrival of COVID-19. We quickly shifted gears, creating online portals for people to submit their individual written narratives and conducting interviews over the phone and Zoom. Despite the new challenges, great additions to the collections have been made over the last two years, particularly though our partnership with Pan-Caribbean Sankofa, an organization that supports the documentation and preservation of the history of the West Indian community associated with the Panama Canal.
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