Mar 19, 2021 | LIFE | By Mariel Zech | Photos courtesy of Emily Hidalgo and Prof. Jake Smith

It has now been over a year since Colorado College students were sent home in March of 2020, and since then, we have been living through history. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, CC students Danny Corrigan ’21, Star Goudriaan ’23, and Samson Heyer ’21 recognized the important opportunity to create a space for the CC community to archive moments from 2020.

With the guidance of professors from the History Department — primarily Jake Smith and Jane Murphy — as well as from librarians Cate Guenther, Matt Hartmann, and Steve Lawson, the 2020 Archival Project was born.

The students set up a digital database “designed to archive Colorado College community members’ experiences of the pandemic, the protests against systemic racism and police brutality, and the countless events that have shaped our lives over the course of 2020.”

The students encouraged people from the CC community to submit to the archive, advertising through Tiger Link, emails to History Department alumni, the Weekly Digest, Facebook posts, and oral history interviews.

The project’s page on the CC website states that the archive accommodates “photographs, films, sounds, messages, recipes, and journal entries — if there’s something you created out of this moment, we want to see it.”

On the database, there is a poignant photo taken during the South Hall quarantine in September: a dormitory window decorated with sticky notes that form a frowny face. Another picture features someone holding up a poster above of a sea of people at a Black Lives Matter protest in San Jose, Calif.

Another submission is a bittersweet picture of a socially-distanced date with a couple sitting six feet apart. There is a heart-wrenching essay about a mother’s fear for her daughter’s safety during the pandemic, as well as a digital art portrait of apartment-mates quarantining together, with the caption “I think we Cloroxed the vegetables after this.”

“I hope that it can show aspects of human experience and student, faculty, and staff experience that don’t always make the headlines,” Corrigan said. “There are so many different facets to this experience that we all feel but don’t always make it outside of our own skulls.”

Corrigan continued to reference a submission of thank-you cards students gave to Bon Appetit workers at CC last year, after they continued to serve food to students who remained on campus when classes went online in March 2020.

“To me, that conveys there are all these little services and acts of generosity going on that could so easily be forgotten. We’re so happy that this can be a place to preserve and reflect that.”

Corrigan said that he had the opportunity to dig through archived materials in Tutt Library for a class project in Contemporary U.S. History, and ended up learning about how CC students built a shantytown on the quad and protested against apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s.

For future members of the CC community, this 2020 archive will be a valuable resource to understand what life was like in this tumultuous year on campus and beyond.

When asked what he hopes the database will represent to the CC community in the future, History Department Professor Jake Smith responded, “Unsurprisingly, given my profession, I have faith in the power of historical analysis not only to create a sense of shared identity but also to allow people in future generations to critically analyze the shortcomings of how we handled the current crises.”   

As COVID-19 is the first worldwide pandemic in the digital age, there certainly won’t be a shortage of information archived for future generations. Compared to the 1918 influenza pandemic, of course, there will be an overwhelming abundance of archived material. The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) has been archiving a variety of documents and social media posts related to COVID-19 ethics, science, vaccination, and reopening plans by state.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pasteur Institute in Paris have also launched initiatives of their own. There are more specific projects as well, such as the CC Archival Project, that have focused on documenting experiences in a particular community. For example, The National Library of Israel in Jerusalem is compiling documents to trace the impact of COVID-19 on Jewish communities across the world.

While many parts of life in a pandemic have quickly become part of our everyday routines, these mundane moments will one day seem extraordinary to others who have not been part of this experience. Therefore, the CC 2020 Archive — which is wrapping up submissions at the end of March — will capture moments both big and small.

“I think the archive’s power lies in how it allows people to draw connections between different documents and objects,” Smith said. “So, for example, new lines of thought are opened up by the juxtaposition of photos of protests with those of everyday life in quarantine.”

If you want to contribute to this historic archive, you can submit materials before March ends and browse the current archive here.

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