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Published April 17, 2020
The University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC) and the Wyoming State Museum are collaborating to collect information about the experiences and thoughts of Wyoming citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newspapers and websites are recording the broad sweeps of national and state politics and events, but what about individuals, their families and their friends?
“For its part, the AHC invites you to consider what you would tell future historians about your experiences and memories of this unusual time, and then to share them with us,” says Paul Flesher, AHC director. “Each person’s written or spoken thoughts or creative projects can help future historians understand what it was like to experience daily life during this local and global crisis.”
The easiest way for Wyoming residents to share their thoughts and experiences is by answering a few open-ended questions provided in the AHC’s COVID-19 survey. The survey provides short questions that can help inspire comments.
Questions that could spark people’s interest include: What stories would you tell about your difficulties or disappointments? What bright spots or moments of happiness have you found? If you are running a business, how has Wyoming’s response to this health emergency impacted it? If you are home with children, what are the challenges and opportunities for your family day to day?
“While any Wyoming citizen may contribute their observations through this survey, the American Heritage Center is particularly interested in hearing from members of the University of Wyoming community,” says UW Archivist Sara Davis. “If you are a student, describe how your life has been changed and disrupted. If you teach, how has the switch to online teaching impacted your courses? If you are a staff member or in administration, what adjustments have you needed to make to work remotely or to manage your area of UW through the changes imposed by the COVID-19 emergency?”
In addition, of course, the AHC wants to hear from UW’s alumni, Flesher adds.
“UW graduates are the backbone of Wyoming’s citizenry; more Wyoming citizens have graduated from UW than from all other universities combined,” Flesher says. “Hearing our alums’ experiences with COVID-19 will provide a good approximation of the state’s experience during this pandemic. We look forward to their contributions to this project.”
If people have more to share, the AHC welcomes other items that capture personal experience, such as poems, photographs and other creative works. If residents are writing down personal thoughts -- perhaps in a COVID-19 journal -- consider donating a copy to the AHC. Or, if contributors are sharing thoughts on a blog or through social media, use the hashtag #COVID19WY for AHC archivists to compile tweets and posts later.
“This would be especially helpful for photographs of changes caused by the current situation, such as empty streets, shop windows indicating new conditions of business or the display of teddy bears,” Davis says. “We ask participants in this project to provide permission to the AHC to preserve what you share with us and later provide public access to them.”
Contributors may remain anonymous or even restrict public access to personal stories for five years.
“Please note that we are unable to accept submissions from persons under the age of 18. We also are unable to accept submissions with identifiable heath information (HIPAA content),” Flesher adds.
For more information about the project, or if you want to donate something beyond the scope of the survey, email Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or AHC digital Archivist Rachel Gattermeyer at email@example.com.
More information can be found on the AHC’s webpage at www.uwyo.edu/ahc or #COVID19WY.