Campus News

Archives recording student memories of COVID-19 for future scholars

A UB student-tutor conducts a tutoring session online.

Thomas McNamara, a junior biomedical sciences major, conducts a virtual tutoring session. As part of its mission to preserve UB history, the University Archives is asking students to share their personal experiences during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published April 27, 2020

“Decades from now, researchers and students will want to know what it was like to be a student at UB during this time. ”
Sarah Cogley, digital archivist
University Archives

From documenting relics of world wars and the civil unrest of the 1960s to collecting news clippings on the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the University Archives has worked to preserve snapshots of UB at landmark moments in history.

The University Archives is again working to record history, now of the COVID-19 pandemic, a devastating period in history that will be remembered for years to come.

UB students are asked to donate materials that document their personal experiences during the COVID-19 outbreak to the University Archives.

“The coronavirus outbreak is undoubtedly a transformative event in the history of student life and the academic experience at UB. The crisis has impacted students inversely, from the way they learn and their living situations to their social lives,” says UB digital archivist Sarah Cogley.

“Because so much of how we communicate and interact with others is digital, information can be created and shared quickly, but it can also disappear quickly,” Cogley explains. “It is important that we capture and preserve this information as fast as we can. Decades from now, researchers and students will want to know what it was like to be a student at UB during this time.”

The information will support the research of future scholars and students who aim to study the impact of the pandemic.

“At this moment of reflection, UB Special Collections offers invaluable insights into different worlds for students, staff and faculty alike,” says Brian Carter, a professor in the School of Architecture and Planning who frequently incorporates the University Archives into his research and in the courses he teaches.

“The words, objects, drawings and images that have been collected offer new insights and connections in times of isolation,” adds Carter, who with his students, used drawings and documents housed in the archives to form a book on Buffalo architectural landmark Temple Beth Zion synagogue. He has also tasked students to design proposals and models using blueprints and photos held in the archives that document the work of internationally renowned architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis I. Kahn.

Preserving your place in history

Students may electronically submit COVID-19-related text documents, video and audio files, and photographs using an online form. Materials may also be shared from social media, blogs and video channels, and personal journals. Physical items are welcome but will not be collected until after the conclusion of the pandemic.

Examples of personal experiences include reflections on the transition from on-campus learning to remote learning; the impact of technology on learning; adjustments to student life after moving off campus or remaining on campus; and the ability to stay connected with faculty, classmates, friends and family.

“We understand this is a stressful time for everyone. Taking a moment out of your daily lives to send this information is a big request,” says Cogley. “The student experience is a central part of the university’s history and we are grateful for students’ willingness to participate in documenting their history during such a challenging time.”

The University Archives will not collect personal health information or personally identifiable information about other UB students, faculty or staff.

Collection may expand to include materials from faculty, staff and alumni. In addition to records of student experiences, the University Archives is also capturing websites and communications from university administration related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More information about the program is available online.