As those who live through extraordinary times pass away, the only remnants as to what living through those times were like are captured in records, personal effects and recordings.
The coronavirus pandemic is such a time, and The University of Alabama Libraries wants to document it for future generations.
“We know that 5-10 years from now historians will be looking back at this time to see what people’s personal experiences were from this time,” said Donnelly Walton, archival access coordinator for University Libraries Special Collections. “That’s what archivists and historians do now – look for personal experiences of people from World War I, World War II, the 1950s, 1960s, etc.”
A true picture of a time period requires the recorded experiences of a diverse community of people, Donnelly said, not just those of politicians and celebrities.
“Still Tide Together,” as the archival project is called, seeks the input of all UA students, faculty and staff. Phase one is an online 24-point questionnaire. The questionnaire will remain open for several months, with no deadline currently scheduled. While questions are asked regarding contact information and demographics, respondents may choose to answer anonymously.
Phase two of the project starts after the University returns to normal operations, and Libraries’ staff will ask people to submit physical materials such as journals.
During phase three of the project, Libraries’ staff will decide what to do with the data, whether making it available in an exhibit of the collected materials, putting it online or keeping it in-house so people can view it while visiting Hoole Special Collections Library.
“We want people to tell us in their own words what they’re going through,” Walton said. “They can be simple answers or be pretty expansive.
“We want people to tell us how they managed kids and pets at home while working, what pleasant surprises did they experience living through the pandemic, what was their most difficult adjustment?
“At the end of this pandemic, people will be able to get stats on the numbers of infections and things all over the world, but will they understand that people were trying to do work while being pounced on by Labradors and wild children at the same time? So that’s what we want to archive.”
“It’s a bizarre world we’re living in right now which is why we want people to tell us what’s bizarre for them. Everybody I know has a different take on all of this, which is why one of the questions asks ‘what do you think about how others have responded to the situation, positive or negative?’
Send questions about the project to email@example.com.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.