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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - March 2021
Purdue COVID Stories project launches at Archives and Special Collections

By Mary Jane Chew

Purdue COVID Stories project launches at Archives and Special Collections

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began over a year ago, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections has been quietly collecting campus communications, records and objects like the Protect Purdue wellness kits to capture and preserve this moment in living history for future generations of Boilermakers, scholars and researchers. Now, in conjunction with Libraries, the Office of the Provost and WBAA, Archives is expanding this work into the Purdue COVID Stories project -- a collection of written memories, oral histories, videos, photographs, and more -- detailing the personal experiences of the Purdue community during this unprecedented moment in Purdue history.

The goals of the Purdue COVID Stories project are threefold: to provide an accessible and therapeutic means for members of the Purdue community to share their experiences during the pandemic; to preserve those stories for posterity in the University Archives, providing evidence of the remarkable ways that members of the Purdue community adapted and persevered during this time; and to provide a rich archive of stories that can be used as source material for future research and learning.

“At this point, we are just beginning the material collection phase,” says Sammie Morris, head of the Division of Archives and Special Collections and University Archivist. “We plan to keep submissions open for at least a year, but ultimately, our goal is to create an accessible e-archive where anyone curious about the response and resilience of our Purdue community can explore and reflect on these stories for many years to come.”

So, what is a COVID story? “A COVID Story is a record of your experience during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Morris explains. “The story may be told through interviews, poems, journals, videos, photographs, or any other means that shares your experience. A COVID story is your story, and we all have one. Your unique perspective adds to our understanding of the pandemic’s impact upon the Purdue campus community and its people.”

Interested faculty, staff, and current students are encouraged to visit the new Purdue COVID Stories Project website to submit their own stories for inclusion, and Morris is quick to point out that no story is too great or too small. “One of the most important goals of the project is to capture the full spectrum of the pandemic experience at Purdue, from the life-changing to the smaller impacts to a person’s daily routine. Every story is valuable and important to us.”

Submissions should focus on an individual, personally lived experience. Please do not submit general news stories about the pandemic or national response. As the project evolves, Archives plans to open the website submission process to alumni and friends. In the meantime, interested alumni are invited to email Archives at archives@purdue.edu to make arrangements for submitting their own materials. COVID stories may be submitted anonymously at the discretion of the author. More information about acceptable file types and size restrictions, contributor rights, and sample prompts can be found on the project website.

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