On March 26, the Georgia State University Library started collecting stories from students, faculty and administration about COVID-19 through an online submission form.
According to Katherine Fisher, a Georgia State archivist, this practice is known as rapid-response collecting. It is used to preserve important records pertaining to current events and situations that will have long-term consequences and historical significance.
The form has not been advertised publicly due to the university’s adjustment to online classes and the number of messages regarding that.
Georgia State archivists Christina Zamon and Katherine Fisher are in the beginning stages of this project. Five responses from library employees have been submitted; the librarians were the first to see the form.
According to Fisher, she and Zamon realized the COVID-19 pandemic would affect the campus community in “profound, long-lasting ways” once Georgia State began closing parts of campus and switching to online classes. That’s when she decided to document the experience into the University Archives.
“Proactively documenting events by archivists is not a new thing. We did something similar in 2017 to document the women’s marches across Georgia and documenting groups from Georgia who went to [Washington, D.C.] for the march,” Zamon said.
Both Zamon and Fisher are borrowing ideas from other archivists and using strategies adapted during the 2017 Women’s March in order to effectively document COVID-19.
This documentation is a reference to help future students, faculty and researchers understand how Georgia State handled this situation.
According to Zamon, a lot of places are going back and reviewing documentation to learn how the world coped with the deadly 1918 flu pandemic.
The form provides the Georgia State community with a platform to “donate” their response to COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on their life. This allows people to share their story and it gives the university a reference.
“It allows people to share their experiences and feelings in a very immediate, authentic way (as opposed to sharing memories long after the fact, which is also valuable but gives a different perspective),” Fisher said.
Zamon and Fisher encourage the Georgia State community to complete the form in order to collect as much information and capture this snapshot in time.
“We might eventually put some of the submitted stories and images online through our Digital Collections site,” Fisher said. “The entire COVID-19 project will become part of the University Archives’ permanent collections, which means that students and other researchers can access the stories in our reading room or by requesting copies, whether or not those stories are on our website.”
The form remains open for submissions.