Southeast’s Special Collections and Archives to Release New Collection ‘Documenting the Pandemic’

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Photo by Southeast student Peter Reckling: In the early days of the pandemic, some areas of many public spaces, including Cape Girardeau city parks, were taped off to keep large groups of people from gathering.

Southeast Missouri State University’s Special Collections and Archives on Tuesday, Nov. 10 will unveil a new digital collection, “Documenting the Pandemic: Stories from Southeast,” which includes campus and community members’ experiences amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help build a vital historical narrative of what life was like for people in a pandemic world, Southeast students, faculty and staff and local community members were invited to begin sharing their stories with the University in late April.

“It was so encouraging to see our Southeast community share their stories about how this global pandemic has affected their lives right here in southeast Missouri,” said Roxanne Dunn, Special Collections and Archives librarian. “It was touching, and sometimes a little heartbreaking, to read and understand what our community is going through during this challenge.”

“Documenting the Pandemic” includes the first-hand accounts of nearly 50 people who took the time to document and share their daily lives. Most submissions came from the early months of the pandemic and capture how life on campus and in southeast Missouri changed when the pandemic began.

Dr. Brooke Clubbs (bottom center) presents her dissertation defense on Zoom.

One such submission came from Dr. Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs, Southeast instructor and director of Health Communication for the Department of Communication Studies and Modern Languages, who reached a monumental career achievement at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After completing her research on faculty burnout and its relationship to social and institutional support in mid-March, she was ready to defend her dissertation, but due to the University’s decision to close campus over COVID-19 concerns, it was clear Clubbs would have to do so remotely. She quickly taught herself to use Zoom with online tutorials but said today she practically lives her life on Zoom.

“My dissertation defense went smoothly,” she said. “My husband and kids had taken our dogs over to my mom’s so there wouldn’t be an interruption if the mail or UPS came during the Zoom. He returned home about the time flowers arrived from Dr. Melissa Odegard-Koester, and he took a picture of me holding them by the computer, which I captioned, ‘I just became a doctor in my kitchen.’”

Jennifer Baker, a 2015 Southeast alumna with a Bachelor of Science in historic preservation, said she considered it an honor to be part of the University’s “Documenting the Pandemic” collection.

An excerpt from Jennifer Baker’s manuscript that describes how the pandemic affected her and her family.

“My contribution to the project is a manuscript that describes many of the ways that the pandemic has personally changed my world,” Baker said. “It includes a few pictures, and it describes what I was thinking and feeling at the time. When I wrote it, my objective was to include things that may not necessarily be recorded in history books so that people 100 years from now would know that we made homemade masks, we put teddy bears in our windows and we changed the way we shopped.”

Such a glimpse into everyday life is exactly what the “Documenting the Pandemic” collection was meant to capture.

“We’re so thankful for those who chose to share their story — and hope this collection will be a valuable resource to future researchers who want to know what it was like to live during the time of COVID-19 and the year that was 2020,” Dunn said.

Special Collections and Archives staff hope readers of “Documenting the Pandemic” will learn a lot about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected fellow community members, and that the collection will be of great value to future researchers who study the pandemic.

To view the Special Collections’ Digital Collection, click here.

For those interested in being part of the collection, visit Special Collections and Archives at library.semo.edu/service-areas/special-collections-and-archives/dtpsfs.

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