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Oct
20
2020
Beyond Yellow Springs

The Wright State University Special Collections and Archives is collecting journals and diaries focused on the coronavirus pandemic from Miami Valley residents and people across the country. (Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay)

Wright State Archives collects pandemic memories

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How will we remember the coronavirus pandemic years from now, and how will those memories be presented to future generations?

These are among the questions that archivists from Wright State University’s Special Collections and Archives began asking themselves in early March. The department has since begun a project that collects journals and diaries documenting the pandemic, with the documents to be available for public research in the future.

Archivist Dawne Dewey spoke with the News by phone last week. She said that other, similar projects from archivists around the country prompted the Miami Valley institution to begin their own as the nation began to respond to the crisis.

“We’ve always been really proactive about collecting historical materials about things that are happening today — you don’t wait until it’s over, you collect it now,” Dewey said.

The response to the call for submissions has been good, according to Dewey, with nearly 50 people participating and more than 10 diaries submitted so far, with additions to those submitted documents being made periodically. Since the Special Collections and Archives department is still closed to the public, most of the materials received have been submitted electronically.

“People are anxious to tell their stories — we’re all going through something that these generations, for the most part, have never experienced,” Dewey said.

Though the project’s website indicates that submissions are open to Miami Valley residents, the archives has received submissions from all over the country. Dewey said this is, in part, due to the publicity the project has received, including an interview with Dewey in the April 13 NY Times story, “Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary.” 

“People have discovered our project and want to be a part of it — and we’re happy to have them do so,” Dewey said.

Eventually, the Special Collections and Archives will make all of the submissions to the project available for public study. The department has both physical and electronic archives and is working toward posting a sample of the submissions available in its online repository, though efforts are slowed as archivists continue to work remotely.

In the meantime, Dewey encourages any who are interested in participating in the project to get in touch and start submitting work. She stressed that submissions don’t need to be perfect and that any record could be helpful to researchers.

“I think a lot of time people think that what they have to say isn’t important,” Dewey said. “People’s feelings and thoughts about what is happening are important, and people really will want to read about them in the future.”

For more information, and to submit documents to the project, visit libraries.wright.edu/special/document-your-story. The YS News also wants to hear from you — if you’d like to share your “Coronavirus Diary” with the Yellow Springs community, email ysnews@ysnews.com.

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One Response to “Wright State Archives collects pandemic memories”

  1. Manfred/Millie says:

    Thurs. Jan. 30th my journal entry mentions:

    “The WHO declared Corona Virus a world emergency.” I talk about the weather…

    March 9th was the last time we were physically inside any retail store according to my journal and I mention in writing that there “were 3 cases of Covid19 in Ohio”

    Everything in between those dates is regular recounting of normal day to day stuff except for documenting a couple of odd dreams. (Physical flare ups are also documented stemming from a chronic condition)

    I paused the journal in March (because we were basically hold up in the house, watching the news and thankful we had food and toilet paper.

    The last journal entry: “Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and the Pandemic rages. Most church services are cancelled to keep parishioners safe from the virus spread. I’m watching an animated Easter story on YouTube. That will do this year.”

    So, you see, journals can also document just how unprepared every was for this pandemic by what they “don’t say” as well as what they do.

    If or when there is a second wave, I hope we have learned the most we can to save more lives in Ohio and elsewhere.