Q&A: Healey Archivists Document UMass Boston’s COVID-19 Experience
The Healey Library's University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) staff launched a new project: They’re documenting the UMass Boston community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. By compiling personal materials online, they hope to chronicle the personal and collective experience of the epidemic for present and future Beacons.
“ We know that people have stories to tell, and we are here to collect, preserve, and share those stories with the world. ”
Now Reference Archivist Jessica Holden shares how the project got started and how it works, who should submit and how, and what the UASC hopes the future of this project will be.
What’s the story of how this project came to be?
As soon as we started working remotely, the UASC staff started talking about the pressing need to provide a collection portal for our university community during COVID-19. Other university archives have run similar collecting projects immediately following disasters and many other university archives are also running collecting projects on COVID-19. We are interested in collecting materials from all members of our campus community: students, faculty, staff, alumni, administrators, and anyone else connected to the university with a story to tell.
Who is involved in the project and what roles are people taking on?
Interim University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections Andrew Elder and I put together the main elements of the project: the project description and the collection forms in Google Forms. I promoted the project on social media and contacted faculty directly about the project. Andrew promoted the project via regional listservs and shared the project with the Healey Library and alumni office.
Who should submit materials and what should they submit?
We are interested in collecting materials from all members of our campus community: students, faculty, staff, alumni, administrators, and anyone else connected to the university with a story to tell. Submissions could include personal stories, photographs, audio or video recordings, reflective essays, curricular materials created for a class you are now teaching online, works of art, poems, short stories, or blog or social media posts, but those are only suggestions. We want to know: How has life changed for you as a student, as a staff member, or as a member of the faculty? How are you staying connected to the people in your life and to others at UMass Boston during this period of social/physical distancing? What do you want people in the years to come to understand or know about this time period?
Where are you collecting submissions and how long will you continue to collect?
I wrote a blog post called "Documenting the UMass Boston Community’s Response to COVID-19" that has a link to the collection forms. We’ll be accepting submissions indefinitely. As long as people submit materials, we will continue to collect them.
What will you do with the materials you collect?
The materials will become part of the Healey Library’s permanent digital collections, and if contributors give us permission, they will be shared through our digital collections repository here. We will likely feature items on social media and via our blog. An exhibit is definitely on the table, but we haven’t discussed specifics yet.
What impact do you hope this project has on the UMass Boston community?
We are hoping for two outcomes with this project: that the project can serve as an outlet for people during social distancing and while we’re experiencing a time of great stress and uncertainty, and that the project helps to document our campus’s collective and individual experiences during COVID-19. We know that people have stories to tell, and we are here to collect, preserve, and share those stories with the world.
About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 10 colleges and graduate schools serve 16,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu.