Documenting COVID-19, through Explorers’ eyes
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way we work. In some cases, it’s also reshaped our work.
Take, for example, the University Archives team at La Salle University. Led by archivist Catherine Carey, the team since April has accepted submissions in support of the University Archives’ COVID-19 project. The project aims to collect and store materials, stories, and details from students, employees, and alumni in real time, helping to recount academic and operational experiences at La Salle during the pandemic. It’s an exercise Carey called “in many ways a first of its kind for us.”
“There have been a couple instances when we tried to capture an acute moment in time,” Carey said, “but no, we’ve never taken on something like this.”
La Salle’s COVID-19 Archive Project seeks materials from “as many diverse voices as possible,” Carey said, adding that an individual can make multiple submissions. This includes La Salle students across all degree program levels, backgrounds, and graduating classes, as well as faculty members from all disciplines, staff members across multiple departments, Christian Brothers, and University alumni.
“It’s an opportunity for those in our University community to put into words how this pandemic has affected them,” Carey said. “There is no doubt, many years from now, that others will want to know what it was like to live, work, or study at La Salle University during these unprecedented times. That’s why we are calling upon everyone connected to La Salle University to try to share or consider sharing their personal experiences, reflections, and materials.”
The Archives team views the project as a virtual time capsule, hoping to capture photographs and videos, first-person anecdotes and experiences, and documents and files that demonstrate the effect of COVID-19 on the University’s students, faculty, and staff. These will supplement their preservation of the University’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. This includes campus-wide communication, as well as social media activity and webpage content.
The project will continue indefinitely and throughout the duration of the pandemic, Carey said.
“As archivists, it’s our job to document things today so the story can be told tomorrow,” Carey said. Historians are the storytellers. Our goal is documentation of this moment in La Salle University’s history, to ensure these details, items, and stories are saved for future generations of Explorers.”
—Christopher A. Vito