Deserted sidewalks and empty libraries. Vacant lecture halls and uninhabited dormitories. That’s not a normal site in the middle of the spring semester on a college campus.
But the spring of 2020 is anything but normal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed the way UofL operates. Students and faculty have shifted to online learning and teaching at the drop of a dime, while staff members adjust to working from home. And yet, our Cardinal Family has faced these changes with open minds and is soaring to new (social distanced) heights.
To document these changes, Archives and Special Collections is seeking the UofL community’s experiences and reflections of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Documented experiences could range from direct observations to artistic reflections on topics such as working from home, the shift to online teaching, social distancing and self-quarantine and leading the university through the crisis.
Rebecca Pattillo, a metadata librarian for Archives and Special Collections, believes these changes and new experiences are important to document for future generations to look back on.
“Major events throughout history are often researched through primary sources that are created at the time of the event,” Pattillo said. “Many are turning to other major pandemics, such as the 1918 Influenza, to see how communities experienced, coped and banded together. COVID-19 will be no different.”
Pattillo also shared how the collection of experiences will benefit the UofL community.
“This documentation will allow people within and outside of the university to reflect back on this time and how we reacted to and made sense of our changed lives,” Pattillo said. “These experiences will serve as ‘raw data’ for understanding how the move to online learning and teaching affected students and professors, how the transition to work from home or loss of income affected employees, and how administrators reacted during a time of crisis.”
So far, Archives and Special Collections has received photos and videos of empty grocery store shelves and a deserted Belknap campus, as well as written reflections, including a letter someone wrote to their future self. The following is an excerpt from a written submission by Kelly Hill, a PhD student in the College of Arts and Sciences:
“As a graduate teaching assistant and PhD student, I should be writing my dissertation, but my historical novel is about 19th century women who were quarantined in a home when they were pregnant, and all of a sudden, this feels a little on the nose.”
Pattillo and the Archives and Special Collections team encourages everyone in the UofL community to document their personal COVID-19 experiences.
“Everyone, whether they are a student, faculty, staff or administrator should share their experience,” Pattillo said. “By having a wide breadth of submissions, future generations will have a greater understanding of COVID-19’s full impact on the UofL community.”
Archives and Special Collections will eventually make the collection open to the public for research, but the details are still being worked out.
To submit your personal experience of life during COVID-19, use this form.