Did you scour the shelves of countless stores looking for toilet paper this spring? Are you among the millions of laid-off workers who filed for unemployment benefits? Are you social distancing?And what about that 5.7 magnitude earthquake on March 18 and those aftershocks that hit Utah as the coronavirus was spreading? Did you think it was the Big One?
Whatever your experience, you were part of history and the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah wants to hear from you. The library has created the Utah COVID-19 Digital Collection to document the response to the pandemic of 2020.
The project is gathering stories and photos to show how the spread of COVID-19 and the earthquake, which delayed the start of the U.’s first full day of online classes, has affected the state’s residents. Suggestions for topics include working or studying from home, changes to your daily routine due to social distancing, the experience when those around you got sick, reactions to news reports and earthquake damage.
The contributions can be a story, essay, daily journal, photograph or screenshot. For submission forms and instructions, visit here.
Libraries and museums across the country are assembling similar collections, according to Anna Neatrour, digital initiatives librarian. The Marriott Library’s project is the first of its kind in Utah.
“We’re living through such a historic moment and part of our mission at the University of Utah is to capture history and make it accessible to everybody, so this seemed like a natural thing for us to do,” Neatrour said.
She said some of the details in the collection might seem innocuous but they won’t be years from now. People who won’t be familiar with what daily life was like in 2020 will find it interesting that there was tape placed in 6-feet intervals for customers waiting in line to get into the grocery store Neatrour said.
“That kind of detail is important to capture and preserve for the future,” she said.
The project was officially launched on April 9 and within a few days, about 50 people had submitted a total of 75 stories and photos. The first pieces in the collection were photos from Neatrour; digital curation librarian Rachel Wittmann; and Jeremy Myntti, head of digital library services.
The pictures – which were posted to give people an idea of what to send – include a selfie of Neatrour wearing a mask in a grocery store, Myntti walking past empty shelves at a Walmart and a sign at a Smith’s grocery store that says it is limiting flour to two packages per customer.
Some of the outside submissions show people dealing directly with the COVID-19 virus, such as isolating themselves within their homes or saying goodbye to a loved one going to the hospital for treatment, Wittmann said.
Myntti said the librarians would like to get content from Utahns representing all backgrounds and all parts of the state.
“We want everyone to know that their story is important no matter how boring their life may feel at this time,” Myntti said. “It’s important to document what we are doing, how we’re doing with these measures that are in place all over the whole world, so we can preserve this moment in history for future generations.”