Lepage with Dean Adele Lindenmeyr

Recently, the Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest  at the University received a grant to fund projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kristen Curley within University Media Relations had the opportunity to speak with both Jason Steinhauer, director of the Lepage Center, and Beaudry Allen, the preservation and digital archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.

The Lepage Center wants students to share what life has been like for them during the pandemic. Steinhauer has made it clear they are looking for a wide range of stories.

“We want to hear from students of every year – juniors, seniors, international, domestic, law, nursing, engineering, the whole gamut,” Steinhauer said. “We also want to know howstaff, faculty, etc are handling this.”

These stories are being collected digitally as “videos, short movies, photographs, PDF or Word Documents that encapsulate experiences or thoughts can be uploaded.”

One of the most important aspects pf this project is the partnership between the library and the Lepage Center. Falvey Memorial Library has been collecting stories and information about the public reaction to the pandemic for months. Steinhauer explained that the Lepage Center “isn’t a repository,” so they’re aware that by working with the library they can connect the projects with the different stories to create a well rounded and true understanding of what life is like today.

With the focus being on digital submission, it is not hard for students to share. Therefore, a big part of the projects is keeping the stories organized. Because the Lepage Center wants as many stories told as possible, the process of organizing these stories is extremely important and this is where Allen and her team play a big role.

Allen explained that the University archives have never preserved information like this in such a great quantity. The hope is to put all such information into a digital library where it can be accessed by students.

Both Allen and Steinhauer acknowledge that typically, the world would not see such a collection happening after the pandemic, but collecting them during the pandemic adds a certain authenticity and rawness that they are committed to preserving and sharing.

Today’s world has become so consumed with anxiety and fear. Critical questions of when this will be over and when a vaccine will be released seem to be all we can focus on. This grant enables people to think more about how they’ve felt over the past couple of months. It enables people to understand each other more, as such stories and projects will eventually be available to the public. 

There is a real commitment to getting a cross-section of real stories. One of their main goals right now is just getting the word out and promotion. If you have a story to share, then you are encouraged to do so.