Newswise — The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Special Collections and University Archives is launching a project to collect stories, photos, artwork and other current materials from the university community to document how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting life at UIC.

The effort, dubbed Six Feet Apart: Stories from UIC during COVID-19, is a way to document history in the making as the world, the nation, municipalities and college institutions, including UIC, attempt to cope with this pandemic. As with past pandemics, the records created by these entities will be studied in the future.

The University Library’s Special Collections and University Archives, the UIC Humanities in Medicine (HuMed) student group and the UIC College of Medicine are leading the effort to collect documentation that could aid future historians.

This is important as journalists, bloggers and scholars have relied on historical documentation from the 1918 flu epidemic to garner lessons that help us in the present, said Megan Keller Young, special collections librarian.

“This project is a way to capture personal reflections, which are all too often missing from the historical record,” said Keller Young. “This is a historical event all of us are going through together, but no one in quite the same way. All of these experiences should be documented for future researchers.”

The organizers are asking current UIC students, faculty and staff to share their stories and experiences of how their lives have been impacted by COVID-19. The submissions will be preserved in the University Library’s Special Collections and University Archives, where they will be publicly available to students, researchers and other visitors to the library. Submissions can be written accounts, videos, photos and more. Selected materials eventually will be included in a digital exhibit chronicling the current pandemic.

It’s important to document how quickly and dramatically everything has changed in a “blink of the eye,” said UIC medical student Chioma Ndukwe, one of the leaders of the History/Ethics subcommittee for HuMed. She said the humanities have always served to document the “how and why” of history.

“Everyone has been working hard during this crisis — health care workers, IT techs, professors, students, maintenance workers and many more,” Ndukwe said. “I wanted those efforts to be documented; that way people years or even decades in the future can look back and learn from and about our experiences today.”

UIC students, staff, and faculty are being asked to provide details on their day-to-day lives such as how they are coping with the transition to online learning, how graduating students are impacted by the pandemic in their final year, how their future employment prospects are also affected and the challenges of working from home. The project organizers especially hope to collect the experiences of those working in the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.

To submit their stories and experiences, UIC students, staff and faculty should use the submission form where they may contribute as much detail about themselves as they wish. Though they must provide an email address in case they need to be contacted by library staff, submissions can be anonymized when added to the collection.

To learn more about the project and submitting, visit the project page.