Archive works to share pandemic experiences
“Our end goal is to create an online collection of these stories and experiences, which we think (are) not only for future historians, but for us now as a community."
By Rochelle Eiselt, Journal-Courier
A project of Illinois College’s Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives is documenting the IC community’s COVID-19-related experiences to share with future generations.
Archive Your Story is a COVID-19 oral history collecting initiative that began in March, after Illinois College shifted to remote learning as part of the statewide shutdown.
“The project is rooted in documenting the Illinois College and Illinois College community COVID-19 experience, so how are our students, employees, friends of the college, the Jacksonville community experiencing this moment in time,” said Samantha Sauer, Illinois College archivist.
The experiences collected will be recorded in a variety of ways, so it will be available for future historians and researchers to understand what the experience was like, she said.
There are two main parts to the project.
The first invites people to share their created documents or records — a diary, homemade signs, face masks — with the archives, either now or later.
The second part is an oral history component in which IC students take a role in conducting, transcribing and making available through the archives oral history conversations they’re having with people who want to share their story in their own voice.
“It’s a guided conversation and we’re fortunate (that) we actually have some oral history records and recordings in the archive now,” Sauer said. “So this is continuing a project in a way, but in a very focused look at the COVID-19 experience. So using a couple of different types of digital strategies, IC students are able to have a remote video conference or phone call guided conversation with members of the community to really get a look at how COVID-19 has impacted them.”
The guided conversations typically run from 15 to 20 minutes.
When a student and community member have those conversations, they are on the same page in terms of the nature of the conversation and how it will help give future historians and researchers insight on a very personal level about “how lives have been changed and impacted,” Sauer said.
“Our end goal is to create an online collection of these stories and experiences, which we think (are) not only for future historians, but for us now as a community,” Sauer said. “It will help create those kind of connections and help connect us during a time where it’s easy to feel disconnected and separated.”
Current IC digital archival materials may be accessed freely by the public at library.artstor.org. Search Artstor’s public collections for “Illinois College”.