History in real-time: How colleges are chronicling coronavirus

'Nothing is too mundane to share,' university librarian says
By: | May 27, 2020
University of North Georgia visual arts professor Jon Mehlferber is 3D-printing masks for medical professionals as well as campus facilities staff and university police.University of North Georgia visual arts professor Jon Mehlferber is 3D-printing masks for medical professionals as well as campus facilities staff and university police.

A lack of archival documentation of the 1918 flu pandemic at the University of North Georgia motivated campus librarians to ensure the community’s coronavirus experiences were preserved for future generations.

The university’s Special Collections & Archives staff last week launched the “Documenting COVID-19 in Northeast Georgia” project to collect stories, images, videos and voice recordings that document the coronavirus’ impacts on life in the community.

“So much of our world and daily life changed almost overnight,” says Allison Galloup, the special collection and digital initiatives librarian. “We want to know how our friends and neighbors responded to these monumental changes.”

The library is asking faculty, staff, alumni and Northeast Georgia residents to submit “slice-of-life” stories, such as window visits with elderly family members, Zoom meetings and socially distant birthday celebrations.

“Nothing is too mundane to share,” Galloup says. “While there may be similarities in all of our stories, each person’s experience and perspective is unique.”

The library will display submissions in an exhibit and preserve them for future generations.

“We thought it was important for us to collect information about the experiences of our Northeast Georgia community for future scholars and researchers,” says Joy Bolt, dean of libraries. “It will be there when people want to look back on this time and see how things were for so many of us.”

A University of North Georgia cadet commissions on campus in accordance with CDC guidelines on social distancing.

A University of North Georgia cadet commissions on campus in accordance with CDC guidelines on social distancing.

‘Hokies@Home’ coronavirus history

Virginia Tech has launched the Hokies@Home project to collect oral histories, audio recordings, written stories, diary and journal entries, photographs, videos, art and other documentation of the coronavirus to add to publicly available digital archives.


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“We’re particularly interested in the documentation of experiences as they relate to Virginia Tech and how individual and community-university experiences were affected by the pandemic,” says Anthony Wright de Hernandez, University Libraries’ community collections archivist.

Burruss Hall at Virginia Tech is lit up in blue lights to pay tribute to health care workers battling the Covid-19 pandemic. (Ryan Young / Virginia Tech)

Burruss Hall at Virginia Tech is lit up in blue lights to pay tribute to health care workers battling the Covid-19 pandemic. (Ryan Young / Virginia Tech)

University archivists hope to hear from prospective, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students as well as faculty, staff, alumni, parents, university contractors and community members.


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Submissions will be accepted in multiple languages.

The Hokies@Home collection will also include all official digital content from Virginia Tech related to the coronavirus, such as news articles, public announcements, websites, social media, emails and recordings of public town hall events.

“Learning about history from primary sources of personal experiences truly brings extraordinary times alive for future generations,” says Aaron Purcell, director of University Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives.

“Preserving the university’s official documents and communications along with Hokies’ personal experiences will give a clear picture of the effects this international pandemic had on all our lives and our university,” Purcell says.


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.