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Cultural Collections

Bentley Historical Library seeks to archive pandemic experiences of U-M community

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design has created a new $25,000 prize to advance the project of one graduating senior.

Photo by Brian Williams, U-M Bentley Historical Library.

ANN ARBOR—Zoom meeting screenshots. Journal entries. Course assignments. Audio interviews. Social distancing signage. Tributes to essential workers. Photos from virtual commencement. 

These are just a few examples of materials that the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library is looking for as part of a new project that calls for the U-M community to help document the COVID-19 pandemic.

The library, well known for its archives chronicling the history of the state of Michigan and U-M, recently launched the effort to collect the varied experiences of students, staff and faculty.

“Our goal is to document the personal experiences of the university community during the coronavirus outbreak,” said project archivist Caitlin Moriarty, who is leading the initiative on behalf of the Bentley’s University Archives. “When future students, scholars and researchers want to understand what it was like on campus during the pandemic, the materials preserved by the Bentley will provide a multidimensional first-person account.”

Submission Process

To submit items to the Bentley’s project, staff, faculty or students can fill out a form using their UMICH account. Donors can submit up to 10 files at a time and can fill out the form as many times as needed, though the Bentley is not obligated to keep everything that is submitted. For alternative submission methods, contact

As part of the process, donors will be asked to sign an agreement that will allow the Bentley to preserve their submission, and will receive important information about the copyright and use of their content. This will be an ongoing project for the duration of the pandemic. 

A variety of digital formats will be accepted, including photos (jpg, png), videos (mp4, mov), audio (mp3) and text (txt, pdf, docx, doc) files. Those who would like to submit physical materials, including printed or handwritten items, will be asked to submit a digital photo first and indicate their wish to give it to the Bentley in the description field of the form. Bentley staff will contact prospective donors when they are able to collect physical material.

If the submission includes work that was created with other people, please have any co-authors or fellow contributors (including students, classmates, friends or family members) fill out the Google form as well. The collection will be made available to the public following review and processing by Bentley Historical Library staff.

What to submit 

Submission ideas can include, but are not limited to the following: 


  • Redesigned course materials for remote delivery, new assignments or syllabus changes
  • Communication with students and colleagues
  • Plans for pausing or adapting research projects while campus is closed


  • Work completed on-campus as an essential employee
  • Documentation of experiences in student services as dining halls, dormitories or other services that were closed
  • Messages of encouragement from co-workers and the community
  • Changes to your job due to working remotely


  • Course assignments completed related to the pandemic
  • Photos or videos of moving off-campus or staying in Ann Arbor
  • Communications with family about what was happening as campus was closed
  • Communications with administrators or faculty members negotiating issues related to travel, internships, visa status, living arrangements, food and dining
  • Student organization activities that may continue over a distance
  • Reactions to campus events being canceled or delayed (e.g., graduation, spring sports season, theater or musical performances, trips)
  • Remote learning experiences or documentation of how classes changed when they went virtual


  • Journal or diary entries about the impact of the pandemic
  • Interviews with friends or family members
  • A description of schedules or routines during quarantine/shelter-in-place
  • Your experience as a health care worker
  • Photos of new work spaces
  • Documentation of what it is like to work at an essential business or organization

The project is part of the work being done by many archives to document the pandemic and has adapted aspects of similar efforts by the Michigan State University Archives, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Special Collections and University Archives, and the University of Virginia Library. 


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