SRU group seeks contributions for pandemic archive project


a dad lays on the floor while his son does school work on a computer

From left, Chris Bonneau takes a break from home-schooling his son Robinson Rice-Bonneau, as the family abides by stay-at-home orders. This photo was submitted by Bonneau’s wife, Heather Rice, Slippery Rock University associate professor of political science, as part of SRU’s “Shared Voices, Shared Experiences” project to document the community’s experiences from the coronavirus pandemic.

April 17, 2020

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Remember what life was like during the coronavirus pandemic? This is a question people might ask decades from now, so a group at Slippery Rock University is encouraging people to help preserve history by contributing to "Shared Voices, Shared Experiences: COVID-19 & the Slippery Rock Community," which organizers are calling a "rapid-response archive project."

The Stone House Center for Public Humanities, SRU Archives and the History Department recently partnered to create the project intended to collect, preserve and share experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the lives of everyone connected to SRU and the surrounding communities. They started a website,, and have begun accepting submissions of "records," which can be digital or physical artifacts that represent pandemic-related experiences.

"It can be anything having to do with the experiences of living in this pandemic," said Bill Bergman, associate professor of history and department chair. "It can be the kind of emotional responses which might be expressed through photos, text messages, social media posts, art, literature or any other kind of cultural response."

Bergman developed the idea before taking it to Aaron Cowan, associate professor of history, to see if the project could be launched quickly, as events surrounding the pandemic unfolded. Cowan teaches digital history at SRU and had previously led service-learning projects that were similar in their intent to involve public participation and digital contributions.

"You think about something like 9/11, where we came together as a nation, and then you have this (pandemic) that is global in scope," said Bergman. "(This project) is a way of connecting the local to the national and to the international (perspective). This is a good time to collect information because it's fresh and we're all in the moment."

Cowan, who along with Lia Paradis, associate professor of history, are co-directors of the SHCPH, which is a program supported by the University, grants and donors. It connects the University's humanities faculty and students to the broader community by bringing the humanities to bear on contemporary public life. Paradis is also teaching a liberal studies course about pandemics this semester.

Bergman found another ideal partner for "Shared Voices, Shared Experiences" with SRU Archives and its staff that includes Judy Silva, associate professor of library; Cassandra Frank, instructor of library; and Kevin McLatchy and Jared Negley, library technicians. While SRU Archives will accept material objects, digital submissions will be accepted through the project website. Instructions for both methods are on the project website.

"It's very easy to contribute online but one of the hurdles will be to get people from beyond the University community to contribute (physical materials)," Bergman said. "We want everyone affiliated with the University - students, faculty, staff and alumni - to contribute but also our neighbors from the surrounding counties. (The University and the local community) are not two separate communities; we're one community that is experiencing the same (situation)."

The materials collected for the project will be used as an educational tool but also for possible exhibits, online and on campus, as well as to identify sources for future projects and presentations about the pandemic. Bergman said it's an ongoing project and he welcomes collaboration from other SRU departments to help answers questions about the pandemic and construct oral histories.

For more information, including the submission form and to browse records of what others have contributed, click here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |