UMD professors creating historic archive of COVID-19 |

UMD professors creating historic archive of COVID-19

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: October 16, 2020 06:27 PM

COVID-19 has affected all of us in many ways. It has been a historic time that some UMD professors are documenting and doing a project on.

The project is called "Stories of Wisdom from Bodies in Separation: Archiving the Coronavirus Pandemic Through the Lens of Humanities."

The project focuses on the impact COVID-19 has had on the community and local organizations through interviews art, music, and more.

"This is an oral archive project where we are focusing on collecting archival stories of the community and their response to the social, political, economic, and environmental changes during the COVID-19," said Devaleena Das, the director of the project.

This COVID-19 archive project at UMD is giving project leaders incite on how our community is experiencing this health pandemic through interviews with people from all walks of life in the area. So far over 80 people out of 100 have been interviewed throughout the Arrowhead region of northeastern Minnesota.

"I interviewed two people who had had COVID  and then I've interviewed artists, immigrants, and people from different experiences during this time," said Moira Villiard, an interviewer for the project who is also a local artist in the community.

"We are trying to see the process of healing and Duluth communities is the best example to show how this could be done holistically through art, through music, through stories and also the economic challenges that we are facing right now," said Das.

This project will result in an open-access digital archive for the public to see that will be housed in UMD'S Kathryn Martin Library and accessible for years to come for research or studies on pandemics.

"It has creative works as well as interviews of individuals and we don't have those kinds of materials for the 1918 pandemic for example so it's both a wonderful opportunity to be creative or to document your history," said Aimee Brown, an archivist of the project.

There is also an art exhibit in the Tweed Museum that ties into this project too called "Creating Apart, Local Artists Respond to a Global Pandemic."

It features art, images, and video by local artists covering a range of topics like equity and social justice, creating and wearing face masks, connecting with families virtually during COVID-19, connecting with the land more through hobbies like gardening, and more.

"It was very important for us to contribute some of the aspects of what kind of an impact has the pandemic had on the Duluthian communities," said Anja Chavez, the director of the Tweed Museum of Art.

"I think it'll be really interesting looking back at the art and the interviews just from that present tense lens. I feel like a lot of historical stuff looks at things after they happen and you talk about people like how did you get through this afterwards, but we're just in the moment and all these unknowns are just kind of bubbling up in interviews and art," said Villiard.

Porject leaders said this has also helped the Duluth community with tens of thousands of dollars of CARES Act money, paid through tens of thousands of dollars to humanities professionals working as web designers, curators, oral historian/creators, and oral history archival specialists and thousands of dollars of honoraria to oral history interviewees.

As of September 30, all final products completed of the project will be freely available through the online archive “UMedia” by the University of Minnesota library system. The remaining products will be added towards the end of the year at

A sample of those products will be made available in December at a special web exhibition as well.

As of now the Tweed Museum is only open to UMD students, faculty, and staff. The museum plans on having the exhibit through spring of 2021 so that the general public can come see it.


Alejandra Palacios

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