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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Archive Aims to Chronicle the Pandemic

By Keith Pierce

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to Old Dominion University and the Hampton Roads community, with a crisis shared around the world. Historically, world crises have brought teachable moments. Each unique experience represents a significant snapshot of how neighborhoods, families and individuals cope with unimagined circumstances.

To document this moment in history, Old Dominion University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has created the ODU COVID-19 Archive.

"It is our duty as archivists to preserve the experiences of our community in real time, and to make sure the voices in the archive are as diverse as possible," said Jessica Ritchie, head of SCUA. "We hope that people with various backgrounds and points of view will participate."

Recognizing the value of personal perspectives, SCUA welcomes individual accounts from Monarchs past and present, as well as Hampton Roads residents. SCUA's COVID-19 Archive encourages a storytelling approach to how people spend their time in shelter-in-place settings, how they care for others and how they manage the stress and isolation tied to the crisis. The archive allows individuals to submit their experiences through participation and submission links found on ODU Libraries' main web page.

Terri Jordan, SCUA's digital projects specialist, established procedures for submitting materials to the archive where individuals can write diary entries and poetry, record interviews, take photos and create works of art that document their experiences. In addition to collecting the individual experiences of ODU students, faculty, and community members, the archive also captures official University communications and emails, social media posts, posted minutes from meetings, and other important communication about the outbreak.

SCUA stresses the value of safely preserving the submissions, noting the benefits of historic reflection and future academic research. It also recognizes the necessary collaboration across the University to make the ODU COVID-19 Archive project a success.

"We are grateful to be able to partner with ODU's Information Technology Services to capture and preserve significant web-based communication that will help us document how the Monarch community is adapting to the crisis, while also providing critical research data about the outbreak in the community," Ritchie said. "Perhaps now more than ever, people need to know that their voices matter and that they are heard."

To learn how to participate in the archive, visit the Libraries' ODU COVID-19 Archive website or contact Ritchie via email at jhritchi@odu.edu to submit materials.

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