Smith College documenting COVID-19 experience 

  • The Grecourt Gates of Smith College on Elm Street in Northampton. FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/7/2020 2:20:01 PM
Modified: 5/7/2020 2:19:51 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As people around the world live through a pandemic that will be documented in future history books, the Smith College Archives is inviting students, faculty and staff to share their own stories through its project, “The COVID-19 Chronicles.”

The project is both “a service to future researchers wanting to understand COVID-19 and higher education” and “a service to our community,” said Beth Myers, director of Special Collections at the Smith College Libraries.

“For those who want to participate, they have an outlet for doing so,” she added, through mediums such as journaling, photography, scrapbooks, film and audio recordings and other personal reflections.

In a pandemic unprecedented in living memory, Myers said she’ll be “fascinated to know the questions” that future researchers will ask, such as how the community responded, the timing of these responses, and how reactions varied between students, faculty and staff.

The archives prompt respondents with numerous questions, such as how students are keeping in touch with friends and dealing with re-entry into off-campus life; on-campus life for the few who remained in Northampton after most students were sent home; and how faculty and staff are managing as they work from home.

The archive had received about five submissions as of Wednesday, which Myers said is a good response given that the project has yet to be widely publicized. Students and two faculty members have so far contributed short videos, personal blogs, photos and artwork.

The COVID-19 Chronicles project also stands out because many historical records are gathered after the event happens, Myers said, while the archive is documenting the pandemic as it happens.

“It changes the nature of the record a little bit,” Myers said. “If you’re keeping a daily journal, you don’t necessarily think, ‘How are researchers going to interpret this?’ But we are saying from the beginning … the intent is to document.”

But this isn’t necessarily a negative, Myers added, also noting that many other colleges are pursuing similar ideas to document the pandemic.

“I think it will still be compelling and important,” she said, “and that people are trusting and putting faith into a historical record to contribute.”

Those interested in contributing can fill out a form on the Smith College website. Myers expects that the archive will begin posting submissions digitally in 4 to 6 weeks. There is no hard deadline on submissions at the moment.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com. 


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