Student films. Journal entries. Tributes to the hospital workers.
Items in the Bentley Historic Library's COVID-19 collection offer a poignant insight into the impact of the pandemic on University of Michigan students, faculty, and staff.
Launched in April 2020, the collection includes 265 digital items from more than 150 donors. Archivists are still compiling submissions, with an eye now to how the pandemic continues to affect people's lives more than a year after it began.
"Times of profound change and challenge are important," said Aprille Cooke McKay, senior archivist for university archives at Bentley. "Just experiencing the turmoil made it clear to us that this was a time that people would want to know about in the future."
The project marked the first time that Bentley used an online Google form to accept submissions digitally through crowdsourcing. Materials arrived from all over the campus.
Most of the items in the collection are from the first weeks of the pandemic. A teacher donated her journal entries from that period. Someone who was studying seismic noise near Michigan Stadium presented a graph of these data.
"As soon as the closure started, the volume level in the city at the stadium just dropped," said Caitlin Moriarty, project archivist at Bentley and coordinator of the COVID-19 collection project. “We don't normally think about the sound around us. I remember he was so quiet everywhere. "
One item that caught the attention of archivists was the lighthearted pandemic-related superhero movie of a student in which he played a multitude of different superhero characters .
"We all thought that provided comic relief to the team as we worked on the project, even when we were feeling scared and worried in our own lives," McKay said.
Donations dropped significantly around July of last year, when the novelty of the pandemic wore off and people began to settle into a new normal. Both McKay and Moriarty said they would love to have newer materials in the collection, such as items related to the launch of vaccines or how you felt coming out of quarantine
Six university archivists are involved in the project. they continue to accept donations, they are working on how to package and present the collection, which is completely digital, in a complete and accessible way.
Ultimately, the collaborative collection will constitute only part of the archived pandemic materials of the University. Bentley regularly acquires various U-M school, university and department records, and some of those materials also include items related to COVID-19. The Bentley expects to continue receiving pandemic-related materials through direct connections like these for years to come.
No decision has been made on when the COVID-19 collection project could end.
"One of our team members joked that when we have a football game at the stadium, we will close the (Google) form," McKay said.