Fifty years from now, what will historians find when they look back on the coronavirus pandemic that has changed the world—and more narrowly, the University of Chicago community—as we once knew it?
That’s what UChicago Library archivists are attempting to capture with the Special Collections Research Center’s request for photographs, stories, born-digital files and other ephemera to document the many different and unique experiences of our community during the time of COVID-19.
“Ten, 20 years down the road, people are going to want to see what was happening with our campuses, our students, our faculty—and just how everyone’s life got turned upside down,” said Assistant University Archivist Eileen Ielmini, who has been at UChicago since 1998.
“We have a very diverse campus and community on the South Side, and (COVID-19) is affecting everyone differently. Some people will be interested to share their experiences, and this will benefit folks down the line when researchers try to better understand both why and how certain things happened.”
But what does it look like to document the pandemic? To try and answer that question, Special Collections is soliciting ideas from students, staff, faculty, alumni and South Side community members. Donations could take the form of written or spoken word, photographs, objects, art and more, which detail how all aspects of life—including education, work, or relationships—have changed during this historic time.
One unique source of early donations came from a section of Power, Identity and Resistance in the Social Sciences Core, taught this spring by Teaching Fellow Trish Kahle.