Monday, March 30, 2020

COVID-19 Archive Project

We are all making history right now, as we live through the COVID-19 pandemic. It's an emergency of historic proportions, and has been compared to the Black Plague, or the 1918 Spanish Flu. Like those past crises, COVID-19 will be a major topic of study for future historians. Years from now, Schenectadians will look back and wonder: “How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect Schenectady County? How did our ancestors respond to the crisis?” "What was life like for people quarantined?"

You can help future researchers understand for themselves what life right now is like. You can help future historians understand the pandemic's immense impact on our community, and on ourselves, and on our way of life. You can help future historians understand how this international emergency changed your life, and changed our world, forever.

Consider recording your unique perspective for inclusion in the SCHS archives. Diaries, scrapbooks, photo albums, letters, songs, poems, short stories, and other works of art are all important sources for future historians. Be creative: there are infinite ways you can express yourself, and document the impact of COVID-19 on you, your loved ones, and your neighbors. Help us, by:

--Contributing to a global collection of stories:
--Sharing your story using our form:
--Creating a personal diary, scrapbook, or photo album (analog/physically or digitally)
--Collecting the letters, emails, and notes that you’ve created or received to stay in touch or communicate with others during this difficult time of isolation

--Creating art, poetry, music, and other creative expressions related to the current crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact is an on-going, changing situation. It will take time to document how we are all affected, so we encourage you to contact us when you are ready to donate your materials whether that's today, or in the next few weeks, or several years from now. We're open to collecting materials of any format, digital or analog. If you have questions about ways you can contribute to the SCHS archive collection, or about documenting your experiences, contact the SCHS librarian, Marietta Carr, at

Pages from Sadie Levi's diary 1886. Learn more about this diary:

Tips for creating journals, diaries, and scrapbooks:
  • Pick your format. You can jot notes in a calendar, doodle and write in a blank notebook, or record yourself in a video log. It doesn't matter if you choose an analog format or a digital one as long as it works for you.
  • Schedule time for writing and/or construction. Set aside 10-15 minutes a day or whatever works for you for time and frequency. As long as you are regularly adding to your creation, you're creating historical value.
  • There is no wrong way to keep a journal or scrapbook. Add content that is meaningful to you in whatever way works best for you.
  • If you need inspiration, try answering the following questions:
    • What did you do today? How was today different from yesterday or a typical day in your life?
    • Who did you talk to today? What did you talk about? How did you feel during and after the conversation?
    • What new piece of information did you learn today? How do you think you will use this information? Where did this information come from? Why do you trust the source of this information?
    • Why did you decide to keep this journal or scrapbook?
    • When did you first become aware of the COVID-19 pandemic? What were your first thoughts or feelings?
    • Have you ever experienced an outbreak or similar situation before? How have you prepared or responded to this situation? How have the people around responded?
    • What brings you joy or comfort right now? What are your biggest concerns right now?
    • Think about what your 'normal' life entails and then describe how the current situation differs from your 'normal.' Talk about yourself: where you work, what activities you do, where you live, and who is in your family.
Tips for collecting letters, documents, art, and other creative expressions:
  • Designate a single location for your collection, whether that's a box or a digital folder
  • Don't worry about collecting every single possible item. Focus on making a habit of saving a copy of your documents in that single location.
  • Write or record information about your collection such as who participated in creating it, when you started and finished collecting, and what formats (e.g. email, JPGs, photos, letters) are present in the collection.
  • Find an organization that makes sense to you and record a few notes about that organization. Did you sort items by type (e.g. all of the photos are together in one folder) or by creator (e.g. everything your spouse created is its own folder)? Did you do something else like alphabetize or organize by date?
  • Contact the SCHS librarian if you have questions about formats, organization, or preservation.
Letter from Charles Snell, sent while he was stationed in the South Pacific during WWII.

The SCHS COVID-19 Archive Project is one of many similar projects that archives around the world have started to document this historic period. Our project is informed by and modeled after the Society of American Archivists Documenting in Times of Crisis Resource Kit, History Colorado COVID-19 Experiences Project, and the Mass Observation Archive.

We wish you and your loved ones the very best. Be in touch and be safe.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for doing this! I am a history teacher and have been thinking along these lines for a few weeks. I am now working with my students during our first few days of distance learning and very much want them to be noticing the changes and the "artifacts" of the future that now surround them!