LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 30, 2020) — “It all came so suddenly like there was no time to brace yourself for what was about to come. It started with a couple of cases, I honestly wasn’t too concerned at first. And then it reached Kentucky and the patient is in Lexington at the UK hospital. Okay now maybe I am a little concerned. Then every day the news comes on and you hear case after case in just about all of the states. Panic sets in. Then all of a sudden you’re in class trying to study and then you get the notification on your phone that you won’t be coming back to campus for a while.”
With this April 2020 journal entry documenting the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Kentucky political science sophomore Carli Salchli captured an important moment in the events that have unfolded since March 2020, a perspective that will be preserved for years to come in University of Kentucky Libraries’ “In This Together: Documenting COVID-19 in the Commonwealth” collection, now available online through the Special Collections Research Center’s (SCRC) ExploreUK digital repository.
With news and mainstream media only being able to represent a fraction of this historical year, personal accounts like Salchli’s that are being collected through the “In This Together” initiative are vital in telling the full history of everyday Kentuckians during the COVID-19 pandemic for current and future generations.
“Much like researchers have been using archival sources today to study the flu pandemic of 1918, they will want to see and hear how our lives were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the ephemeral nature of social media and digital technology we have to be proactive to make sure future generations have access to this story,” Associate Dean of the SCRC Deirdre Scaggs said.
As part of this initiative, UK archivists are asking for stories from those living, working or studying in Kentucky in 2020. With the conclusion of the fall semester, the SCRC is particularly interested in hearing from students, whether they have been learning from home or attending class in-person.
“Students have a unique viewpoint and we want to make sure that we record their stories. It’s a college experience that has significantly changed for those who are in the midst of their college education and for those who just started their journey. The voices of students are powerful and we need to make sure that future generations can learn from their perspective,” Scaggs added.
From coronavirus-themed poetry and photographs of remote education and store signage on relatively empty streets to written and oral accounts of personal living experiences, UK Libraries has already received several submissions that have captured the interest of archivists. Among these accounts are a painting from 2020 biology graduate Duha Jassim and a selection of blog posts from a class who documented their own pandemic experiences as part of their final project for the spring semester.
In addition to visual art and digital sharing formats, archivists have also received poetic diaries like “The Uncertainty” written by Leanna Hartsough, communication doctoral student and instructor at the University of Kentucky. “I have to work but I have to feel better. I guess I’ll focus on both,” Hartsough wrote.
UK Libraries’ SCRC encourages Kentuckians to continue to share their COVID-19 stories. Whether it is your concerns about society’s response to recommendations or your travel experience heading home for Winter Break, UK Libraries wants to hear from you. To participate in “In This Together,” send submissions of such COVID-19 related archival materials as:
- uploaded photographs, videos and/or art;
- oral histories and other audio recordings; and/or
- provided written content (diary or journal entries, documents related to pandemic, etc.).
Make submissions of information at the following JotForm: https://form.jotform.com/201004347258043.
UK Libraries also encourages members of the Hispanic community to contribute to “In This Together” (“Juntos en Esto”), with Spanish instructions available on how to submit to the collection at: http://libraries.uky.edu/juntos-en-esto.
“By submitting to ‘Juntos en Esto,’ Spanish-speaking individuals play a crucial role in helping to ensure that the qualitative aspect of the pandemic is well-documented in the historic record,” Hispanic Studies and Political Science Librarian Taylor Leigh said.
The Special Collections Research Center at UK Libraries sustains the Commonwealth’s memory and serves as the essential bridge between past, present and future. By preserving materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of Kentucky, the center provides rich opportunities for students to expand their worldview and enhance their critical thinking skills. Special Collections Research Center materials are used by scholars worldwide to advance original research and pioneer creative approaches to scholarship. UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center is the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection, the John G. Heyburn Initiative and ExploreUK.