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Preserving the Story of an Unprecedented Time

Park point sign during COVID-19
April 10, 2020

Library launches Northeastern Minnesota COVID-19 Community Archive Project.

UMD's Archives & Special Collections is organizing the Northeastern Minnesota COVID-19 community archives project, with the goal of creating a community archive to preserve the story of this unprecedented time. 

Like any major historical event, in the future people will research and write about the impacts of COVID-19. It might be easy to access/find statistics and numbers, but perhaps they will want more. People might want to understand the context of the situation:  how did people react during this moment in history? How were people in the community affected? What are their stories?

 The Northeastern Minnesota COVID-19 Community Archives Project, organized by the University of Minnesota Duluth Archives & Special Collections, will be a resource that people of the future can look to for answers to these questions. The goal of the project is to create a community archive that will preserve the story of this unprecedented time. To do this, the Archives is requesting help from community members. The goal is to collect the materials that are being created right now that document this moment in time. 

Aimee Brown, Archivist at the UMD Kathryn A. Martin Library, hopes that a wide variety of people will contribute to this project and notes that, “for most of the 20th century, the materials saved in mainstream archives were created by those with the most economic and political power. These materials are important and valuable, but not the whole story. I encourage all people who want to participate to document their experiences in their own words and images and donate them to the archives.” 

What can be submitted?  

The Archives welcome documentation that represents individual experiences, and also documentation that represents your community's experience. This includes but is not limited to how businesses, government agencies, schools, colleges/universities, health care agencies, and religious, social, political and other organizations are affected by the pandemic as well as documentation of individuals' feelings and reactions to the pandemic, routines for school children at home, examples of mutual aid, day-to-day quarantine routines, and life for essential service workers.

Some examples of items you might contribute to the archives include: 

  • Photos of scenes from your neighborhood, grocery stores, or other places that have changed during this time

  • Signage from restaurants, playgrounds, grocery stores, etc.

  • Social media posts (video/photo/other)

  • Recordings of musical events or other events shared online during social distancing practices

  • Materials from your place of worship explaining the move to online services

  • Homeschooling schedules or other daily routines 

  • Your own journal entries documenting this time

This list is not exclusive. If an item documents some aspect of how the community is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic in Northeastern Minnesota, it’s probably appropriate for the archive!  

Submissions may be in the form of digital photographs, text files, PDFs, spreadsheets, presentations, audio files, or video files. The Archives is not accepting any physical items at this time as the Library is closed to the public, If you have hard copy items you would like to donate, please contact the UMD Archives regarding possible future donations once the library is open to the public again. 

However, they are not collecting any newspaper articles, any local newscasts, or any materials from people or businesses outside of Northeastern Minnesota.

In a time of uncertainty, this project provides something positive for the community to focus on and a way that this historic moment can be documented.

People can learn more by visiting the research guide for this project.

Archives staff have compiled some frequently asked questions about this project which is available online. People who might have additional questions can contact the Archives at or (218) 726-8526.