Kresge is collecting everyday experiences from COVID-19

Emily Morris, Managing Editor

Oakland University is looking for local voices to fill its archives in Kresge Library. The course of the COVID-19 pandemic changed many lives, and OU aims to form a record of experiences with photos, screenshots, video, art, diary entries and materials. 

Dominique Daniel, coordinator of OU Archives and Special Collections, prompted the project in hopes to document “ordinary people’s experiences.” 

“They have great historical significance,” Daniel said. “People don’t really think they’re important — historically speaking — but I can tell you 50 years from now all kinds of people are going to want to know what it was like to live through this period.”

She included that the Spanish flu was “very destructive,” but there are few remnants of that pandemic. In this case, libraries across the country have been working on similar projects to capture this moment in history. 

“I know how disruptive it [the stay-at-home order] was for everyone and even devastating for some people,” Daniel said. “People reacted by expressing themselves through messages of solidarity, humor and heart.” 

Additionally, official announcements — President Ora Pescovitz’s video chats, OU updates and government instructions — are easily accessible, and collecting artifacts from day-to-day ongoings can be difficult to record. Kresge Library is focusing on recording personal messages and reactions. 

“It’s been so destructive for everyone, whether it’s work life or personal life, and those experiences tend to be hard to capture because they’re fleeting,” Daniel said. 

Thus far, the library has added photos of personal home offices, video calls, signs outside and screenshots of emails and announcements on social media. The collection is specifically lacking in diary entries and original art though — these personal items are “really moving” to see, according to Daniel. 

Any intimate materials — like diaries — are archived with discretion, and the donation can be anonymous. There is no deadline to turn in items, photos or messages yet either. Students, faculty and community members can serve a part in documenting this ongoing moment in history at their pace. 

Even if someone doesn’t already have one of those submissions in mind, the library’s page also offers a brief survey — 11 questions that are each optional — where people are invited to share the thoughts, feelings and experiences they’ve had during the pandemic. 

“In the future, I would expect people to feel curiosity, and the archives will help them recapture what is going on today,” Daniel said.