Archivists Rally to Document COVID-19

CHICAGO—In the midst of one of the gravest public health and economic crises in modern history, archivists are taking action to collect and preserve materials documenting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their communities and the nation. Materials include audio and video media, social media posts, websites, emails and letters, journals and diaries, photographs, oral histories, creative writings, and works of visual and performance art. 

In response to social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, archivists have set up electronic submission forms on their institutional websites, hosted online webinars, and launched new sites inviting local community members to contribute records of their pandemic experiences for preservation. 

With contributors’ permission, archivists also are making materials freely accessible online to provide a testament to the far-reaching and disruptive impacts of COVID-19 on everyday American life. Here are examples of just some of these projects:

Beyond local communities, archivists have been collecting and preserving thousands of individual websites that capture the effects of COVID-19 on American society. Archived websites document how individuals and communities are coping with the crisis, how health care workers and volunteers are mobilizing to care for those infected, how governments at all levels are responding, and how local and national media are covering the pandemic. Examples of web archiving projects include:

Archivists are the professionals who work every day to document history as it happens so that it is preserved for future generations. You can help in their efforts by sharing your own experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact your local archives, historical society, museum, or library today to donate a journal, photos, or other materials highlighting your personal experience during this public health crisis. 

Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America's oldest and largest national archival professional association. SAA's mission is to serve the educational and informational needs of 6,000 individual and institutional members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of historical value. Learn more about pandemic response resources as well as how communities are documenting the COVID-19 pandemic. 
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SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness issued this press release to news outlets across the country on May 13, 2020.