As history unfolds during the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries are collecting experiences and responses from Georgians to preserve for generations to come.
Georgia residents can contribute to the project by sharing how the crisis has impacted their family, business, education and well-being. Digital submissions may include personal reflections, photos, poetry, recordings or any other means that demonstrate how the pandemic affects people’s lives.
“Georgians who contribute to the coronavirus collection will help to build our collective understanding of the kaleidoscope of human experience in this unusual circumstance,” said Toby Graham, university librarian and associate provost. “Even as we live through the COVID-19 crisis, we should begin to document this critical time for the benefit of future students and scholars.”
The collection will act as a time capsule accessible to researchers, educators and students at UGA and around the world. The materials will provide context and personal stories of the positive and negative impact felt during this period, when schools have transitioned to digital learning, families have sheltered in place together, and people have been forced to define essential services.
“This is an opportunity for our campus, community and state to document the immense impact that COVID-19 has had on their families, education, work life and economic well-being,” said Katherine Stein, director of the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which contains the University of Georgia Archives and assemblages that span from medieval manuscripts to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame collection. “In the midst of great hardship, many people are turning to their creative pursuits and personal reflections that should live on to educate and characterize this time for future generations. We want to ensure these stories and expressions are preserved and made available for research and instruction.”
Most of the time, the Libraries’ special collections units collect ephemera, documents and other materials that reflect historical events. For example, the Russell Library for Political Research and Studies recently received previously unknown papers and interviews related to Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress, and the Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection preserves newsfilm from television journalism outlets throughout the state.
Several years ago, the special collections units sought contributions in real time to document the Women’s March, but the COVID-19 collection marks the first large-scale statewide call for contributions to UGA’s publicly accessible archives.
“Our public university libraries and archives keep the record of who we are as a people. Documenting the current pandemic in real time is an essential task,” said Scott Nesbit, assistant professor of digital humanities in UGA’s College of Environment and Design. Students in the college’s historic preservation graduate program are currently creating informal archives with sources related both to today’s pandemic in their community and the pandemic of 1918.
“Documenting the present situation holds value for us today, encouraging us to slow down and be thoughtful about how we handle the crisis,” Nesbit added. “And this project will hold at least as much value for future students and civic leaders as they learn from our experiences.”
Contributors to the COVID-19 collection will retain copyright of their materials, but they must agree to allow perpetual license to the UGA Libraries to use the materials for scholarly and educational purposes, including broadcast or display on campus, in classrooms, on UGA-affiliated broadcasts, or events and off-campus appropriate venues. The materials will be housed virtually and may be displayed at some point during an exhibit in the Special Collections Building on the UGA campus in Athens.
Contributors do not have to be affiliated with the University of Georgia to submit materials. To submit items, visit libs.uga.edu/covid-collection. For questions or to donate physical items, email firstname.lastname@example.org.