The following is a guest post by Douglas D. Peach, a Folklife Specialist at the American Folklife Center.
The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is proud to announce the launch of the COVID-19 American History Project (CAHP). The multiyear initiative will document, archive, and make accessible Americans’ experiences with COVID-19, to strengthen understanding of American life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will focus on the collection and preservation of oral histories—a powerful medium for sharing one’s experiences. In its FY23 appropriations bill, Congress directed the Center to develop “an educational and commemorative program that will collect, preserve, and make available to the public an archive of submitted oral stories of those who were impacted by the COVID–19 pandemic, survivors of loved ones who lost their lives to the disease, and frontline healthcare workers who tirelessly worked to eradicate this virus.”
The COVID-19 American History Project has three parts. First, the American Folklife Center is now soliciting applications for an oral history award for researchers to document the experiences of frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The award will provide up to $30,000 to each recipient. Applicants are asked to submit an initial concept paper by June 20 using the link above. Select applicants will be asked to submit full project proposals. Documentation from these projects will be archived at the American Folklife Center. Second, staff at the American Folklife Center have created an online resource guide, highlighting collections of COVID-19 documentation at the Library of Congress and many significant COVID-19 oral history initiatives already underway across the United States. Finally, the American Folklife Center will encourage the public to share stories with StoryCorps—a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing humanity’s stories—to amplify Americans’ experiences with COVID-19. If you would like to share your COVID-19 experience with StoryCorps, visit this page. All stories recorded with StoryCorps will be preserved at the American Folklife Center and made accessible through the StoryCorps archive. The three parts of the COVID-19 American History Project will make the American Folklife Center a hub for understanding Americans’ experiences during COVID-19 and will empower the American public to preserve their COVID-19 stories at the Library of Congress.
The COVID-19 American History Project continues the American Folklife Center’s legacy of preserving and presenting folklife at key moments in United States history. In 2019, the American Folklife Center became home to the archival collections associated with the AIDS Memorial Quilt—a community memorial for individuals who died of AIDS. In the mid-2010s, Dr. Benjamin Luft donated 328 interviews with 9/11 first responders to the American Folklife Center. Dr. Luft presented this work at a Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture, in 2011. These collections added to the wealth of September 11th materials available at the American Folklife Center. In 2009, the American Folklife Center organized a symposium titled Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston, which complemented a powerful collection of oral history interviews with survivors of the two hurricanes.
For more information on the COVID-19 American History Project, please contact the American Folklife Center at: [email protected].