From bare grocery store shelves with ration guidelines, to playgrounds with warning signs, workplace and school closures, and unlimited social media and news content about COVID-19, it’s hard not to feel the impact of the pandemic.
Brock University’s Archives and Special Collections and Digital Scholarship Lab have created a website to gather and preserve photos, text, video and other forms of capturing the experience of living in the Niagara region during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the near and far future, students, researchers, authors and other curious folks will be looking for such materials to retell the history of this challenging time,” said David Sharron, Head of Archives and Special Collections at the University’s James A. Gibson Library. “It was recently the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu, and people relied on our archives to see what Niagara did in 1918. We want to capture the history of COVID-19 as it’s happening.”
Sharron says inviting the Niagara community to contribute their materials to the archives will allow for more organic, accurate history.
“Archives usually receive historical documentation years after something has happened, but doing it in the moment allows primary reaction to be genuine and truly historic,” said Sharron. “It allows people to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences in real-time, and in a novel way.”
He adds that giving people a platform to share their experiences while also learning about the experiences of others can allow those feeling isolated to feel less alone.
Tim Ribaric, Acting Head, Digital Scholarship Lab, has been leading the technical side of the website.
“We have an open access platform at Brock called Omeka, which is an exhibit platform that allows us to showcase digitized materials,” said Ribaric. “You take that history and information and retain them for people who want to do research about how things such as normal everyday life felt for people in the moment.”
A couple of key, recent examples in the Brock archives from people who self-submitted are the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in 2011 and the Ferguson Unrest protests and riots in 2014.
“I see people posting on social media every day about what they’re thinking and feeling,” said Sharron. “It’s front and centre on our minds. To capture these raw emotions is more telling than writing this months later when we polish our thoughts. How we’re living right now is true to history.”
There are two ways to contribute to the project.
- Upload digital materials to the COVID-19 archive website — such as digital photos, videos, texts, Tweets or blog posts.
- Donate your physical records — such as a diary or journal, letters, and printed photos to the Brock University Archives.