When the COVID-19 pandemic was really kicking off in the United States back in March and April, we were still figuring everything out. We were in lockdown. Everything was weird and scary (especially in New York and other parts of the east coast). And we just wanted some toilet paper. As we moved into May, it became pretty clear (to most) that the pandemic wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s now August, and we understand that this is our reality for the foreseeable future.
As frustrating as things are (particularly when people ignore public health measures designed to prevent the spread of the virus and save lives), we are living through history. The people who lived through the 1918 flu pandemic probably didn’t think they their personal experiences would be important to anyone in a century, but look at how frequently that pandemic comes up now.
Everything is uncertain and we don’t have a roadmap for dealing with a public health crisis of this magnitude, yet it has been both helpful and oddly comforting to read about how people handled a pandemic just over 100 years ago—especially knowing that things did eventually get back to normal(ish). And now, thanks to the New York Public Library (NYPL), we have the opportunity to record our own COVID stories for posterity. Here’s how to do that.
How to record your pandemic stories for the NYPL
The NYPL’s Pandemic Diaries is a new initiative that gives people the chance to submit audio recordings of themselves and/or loved ones telling their stories about life during the global pandemic. For the first phase of this project, the NYPL is accepting submissions until November 18, 2020, and you must be at least 18-years-old to contribute.
Not sure what to talk about? Here’s a prompt from the NYPL:
The pandemic has affected almost all aspects of our lives, and this project seeks as many unique stories as possible. We’re looking for reflections on families and parenting, education and cultural institutions, business and work, essential workers, life in quarantine, #BlackLivesMatter and protests for racial justice, health care and hospitals, trauma and mourning, the recession, mutual aid, art and literature, community organizations, politics, and much more.
Interested? This page on the NYPL site provides step-by-step instructions for recording and uploading your audio file. When the project is complete, the audio diaries will be archived in the NYPL’s research libraries, where they’ll be available for future scholars, journalists, students and the public.
Have other questions? You can reach the people behind the project at [email protected].