Contribute to IUPUI's COVID-19 Oral History Project

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Contribute to IUPUI's COVID-19 Oral History Project



This COVID-19 Oral History Project is housed at the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute. This project is the result of the collective efforts of graduate students in the IUPUI Public History and American Studies Programs.




The COVID-19 Oral History Project is inspired by the “Rapid Response Collecting” approach that has been used in the public history and museum context for decades–primarily as a way to collect the stories, material culture, digital creations, and ephemera of historical events.

Notable examples of “rapid response collecting” include the project by the Museum of the City of New York and the National Museum of American History; the multiple projects associated with the Women’s Marches of 2017 and 2018; the One Orlando Collection created by Pamela Schwartz of the Orange County Regional History Center in Florida; the collections that emerged from the memorials and protests related to the deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown that are curated by the National Museum of African American History and Culture; and the Tragedy at Virginia Tech Collection created by Roger Christman for the Library of Virginia.

Professional organizations and institutions have increasingly recognized the importance of developing rapid response collections and policies to guide their work. In February 2018, The Public Historian published a series of essays that highlighted the importance of rapid response collecting in its “Roundtable: Responding Rapidly to Our Communities.” And, the Victoria and Albert Museum has even devoted a portion of its galleries to rapid response collecting.

While much rapid response collecting tends to focus on material culture, anthropologists have demonstrated the value of rapid response ethnography in times of crisis. For example, anthropologists released the “Ebola Response Anthropology Platform” in October 2014 as a way to work with clinicians to create more effective responses to outbreaks. Likewise, oral history practitioners have long conducted interviews during moments of crisis as is illustrated Mark Cave and Stephen M. Sloan’s Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis (2014).

The COVID-19 Oral History Project draws inspiration from these projects in an attempt to collect the experiences of individuals living through a modern pandemic. Because of restrictions on face-to-face interaction across most of the United States, the oral histories from this project will primarily be conducted through the technologies of teleconferencing and telephone. Because of this, the recordings are not just documents; they embody the primary material form in which social interaction takes place during a modern pandemic.

Project Description

The COVID-19 Oral History Project is a rapid response oral history focused on archiving the lived experience of the COVID-19 epidemic.

We have designed this project so that professional researchers and the broader public can create and upload their oral histories to our database.

All the data that participants collect and produce will be open access, open source and shared with researchers and the public through GitHub.

The dataset will serve as an historical archive that compiles oral histories about the experience of living through the covid-19 pandemic:

  • a tool that allows individuals and communities to express their understandings, hopes, beliefs, and values about the covid-19 pandemic.
  • a resource to help researchers, policy makers, activists, artists, and communities interpret and respond to current and future pandemics.

The COVID-19 Oral History Project uses approaches grounded in oral history best practices as defined by the Oral History Association (“Principles for Oral History and Best Practices for Oral History” ) as well as in the anthropological code of ethics as defined by the American Anthropological Association (“Principles of Professional Responsibility”).

  • Approach 1: Traditional Oral Histories: This approach consists of traditional oral history interviews conducted by scholars trained in oral history methodology as well as members of the public who receive training through oral history workshops.
  • Approach 2: Crowdsourced Oral Histories: This approach equips members of the public with a set of questions and basic techniques so that they can create their own oral histories. Members of the public can record their own oral histories and upload them to our database.

What to Submit

You can record an oral history using your smartphone or tablet, a computer, or a recording device. Find the quietest room you can and place the recording device in front of you–ideally within two feet of where you are sitting.

In a traditional oral history project, interviewers ask question to interviewees, which often takes the form of a conversation. In this project, you will, in effect, be interviewing yourself. To help you with this process, we have created a set of questions for you to answer. These questions cover a range of topics that will help future researchers better understand how people experienced the COVID-19 pandemic.

The questions below are prompts to help you complete your own oral history. You can answer all of them or some of them. And, you can add your own questions. You do not have to complete questions in the order listed below. You do not have to record your answers in a single sitting, but if you record your answers on multiple dates, please be sure to include the date and time at the beginning of any new recording sessions.

Please remember that any answers you give will be included in a publicly accessible database, so please do not share any information that you would not like to be publicly available.

Be sure to turn on your recording device before you begin answering these questions.

Background Questions

  • What is the date and time?
  • What is your name, and what are the the primary things you do on a day-to-day basis (for example, your job, your extracurricular activities, etc.)?
  • Where do you live, and what is it like to live there?
  • When you first learned about COVID-19, what were your thoughts about it? How have your thoughts changed since then?
  • What issues have most concerned you about the COVID-19 pandemic?


  • Has COVID-19 affected your job? In what ways?
  • Has COVID-19 changed your employment status? In what ways?
  • What concerns do you have about the effects of COVID-19 on your employment and the economy more broadly?
  • Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the employment of people you know? In what ways?


  • How has COVID-19 affected you and/or your family’s day-to-day activities?
  • How are you managing day-to-day activities in your household?
  • Has the COVID-19 outbreak affected how you associate and communicate with friends and family? In what ways?
  • What have been the biggest challenges that you have faced during the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • What have you, your family, and friends done for recreation during COVID-19 (feel free to include details about shows, games, books, etc.)?


  • How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your community (Remember, you may be part of many communities including school, club, church, job, etc. You are welcome to speak about all of these communities)?
  • How are people around you responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Have you seen the people around you change their opinions, day-to-day activities, or relationships in response to the pandemic?
  • “Self isolation” and “flattening the curve” have been two key ideas that have emerged during the pandemic. How have you, your family, friends, and community responded to requests to “self isolate” and “flatten the curve”?
  • Has COVID-19 changed your relationships with family, friends, and community? In what ways?


  • Have you or anybody you know gotten sick during the COVID-19 outbreak? What has been your experience in responding to the sickness?
  • In what ways do you think that COVID-19 is affecting people’s mental and/or physical health?


  • What have been your primary sources of news during the pandemic?
  • Have your news sources changed during the course of the pandemic?
  • What do you think are important issues that the media may is or is not covering?


  • How have municipal leaders and government officials in your community responded to the outbreak?
  • Do you have any thoughts on how local, state, or federal leaders are responding to the crisis differently?

The Future

  • Has your experience transformed how you think about your family, friends, and community? In what ways?
  • Knowing what you know now, what do you think that individuals, communities, or governments need to keep in mind for the future?

How to Submit

Upload your recording here.

QUESTIONS?  Contact Jason Kelly,


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