The New York Public Library Launches History Now: The Pandemic Diaries Project To Collect and Preserve the Stories of the COVID-19 Crisis

The Library will add the audio stories to its renowned research collections to help researchers now and in the future better understand this historic moment from a variety of perspectives

AUGUST 20, 2020—The New York Public Library has launched History Now: The Pandemic Diaries Project, an initiative to collect, preserve, and make accessible the stories of the 2020 COVID-19 public health crisis. 

The project—found at nypl.org/pandemicdiaries— asks New Yorkers to share their unique stories of life during this year’s global pandemic by submitting self-made audio recordings via a simple web form. The stories collected will be added to the Library’s renowned research collections (which currently house over 55 million items, including books, manuscripts, rare books, photographs, prints, videos,  films, and increasingly, born-digital items such as audio files), and be accessible in the future for students, authors, researchers, scholars, and anyone who wants to better understand this historic moment. 

The Library is seeking a wide range of perspectives; examples could include first responders, hospital and medical professionals, teachers, parents, activists, artists, members of the restaurant industry, students, retail workers, members of the financial industry, and so on. The only restriction at this time is participants must be 18-years-old or over.

“This project is an excellent example of what makes the Library’s research collections so important: we preserve and make accessible the history of the world as told through a variety of mediums, including through the perspectives and stories of individuals,” said Julie Golia, the lead of the project and the Library’s curator of history, social sciences, and government information. “This project will help researchers next year, 10 years from now, and 100 years from now gain a more complex understanding of what life was like during the COVID-19 pandemic, as told by those who lived it. We encourage everyone to participate. Every story is significant, and we have a responsibility to preserve them.”

The Library will begin by collecting stories through November. It will then assess if the project will continue. It will take time for the materials to be processed and made accessible to the public for research purposes; the goal is to have portions of the collection available in 2021.

“We are living in an unprecedented moment, and we need to adapt our collections strategy to chronicle the many impacts of this crisis,” said Golia. “We have done just that for 125 years, and it has allowed us to build one of the world’s most incredible research collections, with unparalleled breadth and depth. NYPL is committed to continuing that important mission.” 

The Pandemic Diaries project seeks to gather as many different and diverse stories as possible about the pandemic and its many impacts. NYPL reserves the right not to include a submission in the collection if it does not meet technical requirements or does not address the topic of the project. 

About The New York Public Library

For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been one of the world’s leading free providers of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming, and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves nearly 17 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.

Leave a Reply