Documenting COVID-19: The University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives Launches Project to Capture Experiences of the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 8, 2020

The global impact of COVID-19 is a profound moment in time. As the virus spreads around the world, it has turned lives upside-down in a short period. While it’s difficult to focus too far into the future, it’s as essential as ever to capture our experience right now, so that others may learn and understand what we went through. Recognizing this need, the University Archives has launched the Documenting COVID-19 Project, to hear from the University of Wisconsin-Madison community about their experiences during this pandemic.

“The mission of the Archives is to gather and preserve the experiences of our campus community at this moment,” said Katie Nash, University Archivist. “Understanding not only the struggles people went through, but their triumphs, how they helped each other, recalibrating daily life to accomplish mundane tasks, and overcoming unimaginable challenges. We each have a story, and we need to preserve it for generations to come.”

The Archives created a webpage with essential information about the Documenting COVID-19 Project, including a link to the submission form. The team is looking to collect content that reflects how people document life through journal and diary entries, emails, photographs, videos, voice memos and audio recordings, digital art, and other documentation of how our campus community has been affected. Everything from the shift to remote instruction and studying and working from home to working at on-campus and off-campus jobs to the impact of closing residence halls and other campus services, or the ways friends and families are staying in touch during this period of social distancing and self-quarantine.

“Archives and historical societies around the world are working to document the overwhelming impact this pandemic is having on us all,” said Cat Phan, the Digital and Media Archivist for the Archives. “The unique, difficult, and inspiring experiences that are emerging, and the multitude of platforms for people to share provide a fascinating and important look into this event we are all experiencing.”

Our partners at the Wisconsin Historical Society also recently launched a COVID-19 journaling campaign, encouraging people to take a moment to write down what they are going through – no matter what age. The Society is “seeking individuals and organizations from all walks of life, different cultures, and different ages to participate and document their daily lives for the next 30, 60, or 90 days.”

Without your help, it isn’t possible to capture and document this significant moment in history, specifically the University’s history. For more information on how to contribute to the Archives project, visit the Documenting COVID-19 Project site.

Stay safe, and be well.