New Online Exhibit Shines Light on Life at Drexel During COVID-19
January 30, 2023
Thanks to a new online exhibit launched by the Drexel University Archives, people from around the world can get a glimpse of life at Drexel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exhibit, called Pandemic Stories: Voices of COVID-19, includes oral histories that document personal life experiences of the Drexel community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interviews in the online exhibit were conducted in summer 2020 as part of Honors 301: COVID-19, a course hosted by Drexel’s Pennoni Honors College and taught by Scott Knowles, PhD, a former professor of history, College of Arts and Sciences, explained Mathew Lyons, University Archivist.
“Students in the class conducted interviews and self-interviews to preserve stories about the impact of the pandemic,” Lyons said. “While a majority of the interviews are with Drexel faculty, staff, students, and alumni, some of them are with people from outside of Drexel. There’s a real variety of viewpoints and occupations represented.”
Each interview illustrates a unique perspective on the pandemic. Many stories depict how Drexel responded during the pandemic and the overall effect of COVID-19 on the college experience, while others address social issues, like systemic racism, healthcare inequities, and the role of the media.
One Drexel alumnus shares stories about working in a local emergency room department during the pandemic and reflects on what it was like to be Filipino at a time when anti-Asian racism and xenophobia were exacerbated by COVID.
In another interview, a first-year student at Drexel describes the positive and negative aspects of online classes and touches on how his relationship with news and social media has evolved due to the pandemic.
A Drexel associate professor of architecture reflects on the challenges of shifting to remote learning, as well as the importance of supporting students during a time of civil unrest, particularly after the murder of George Floyd.
The students enrolled in the Honors 301 course donated their interviews to the Drexel University Archives so they could be made available to the public after the class concluded. Over the last two years University Archives staff and interns have been working to upload the 55 unique interviews into the Drexel University Archival Collections digital repository and create the exhibit. Staff also wrote descriptive summaries of each interview and set up categories and tags to make it easy to browse the exhibit by major themes, like education and healthcare.
“This project Is a great example of what Drexel University Archives is trying to do,” Lyons said. “Our mission is about preserving and sharing the history of Drexel University, and that includes lived experiences. The coronavirus crisis is a major moment in Drexel history, and it’s important to document it for future scholars and people who are just interested in what life was like at this time. I also hope the project can help combat some of the disconnection people may still be feeling by giving them a chance to listen to and connect with other people’s experiences.”
Explore Pandemic Stories: Voices of COVID-19
There are several ways to explore interviews within the exhibit. Visitors may browse stories by Participant or Theme, or scroll through the entire collection of interviews on the COVID-19 Seminar Oral Histories page. The audio recordings and machine-generated raw transcripts (for reference purposes) are also available directly through the Drexel University Archival Collections digital repository.
Explore Other Related Projects from Drexel University & the University Archives
Drexel University Archives COVID-19 Documentation Project
From March 2020 to September 2021, Drexel University Archives collected web pages, email updates, and news media articles that document the University’s responses to, and experiences of, the COVID-19 pandemic. For access to these records, contact email@example.com.
2020: The Clothes We Wore and the Stories They Tell
The Clothes We Wore and the Stories They Tell is the first online exhibition of the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection. It features garments loaned by members of the Drexel community. The garments are representative of how the Drexel community experienced 2020.