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Ryerson Library calls for community content for COVID-19 digital archive

The archive will serve as a repository for future research and experiential learning
By: Michelle Grady
May 08, 2020
A health care worker in personal protective equipment walking within a hospital

A Ryerson community member affiliated with the nursing program submitted this photo to the Ryerson Library COVID-19 archive. The team is hoping other community members will submit photos of their lived experiences during this time as well. Photo by Sharah Haque.

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” has proven true as the COVID-19 global pandemic has unfolded. People have searched for images that show what the virus has done to cities across the globe, and have found comfort in videos of neighbours singing together from their balconies in isolation. Ryerson Library Archives and Special Collections have created a digital home for content just like this, and are inviting the Ryerson community to contribute through an online portal. The material they receive will be used for future research and experiential learning.  

Curtis Sassur, Ryerson Library archivist, says the content they receive could work to help future generations understand these strange and challenging times. “I like to compare it to the Spanish flu pandemic; some of the vernacular materials that are being shared, including photographs, are so valuable in terms of understanding that time. And I’d like to think, without predicting or being hubristic about where it’s going to go, that archives like this one could help to fill in the vernacular picture for these times.”  

The team’s hope is that this repository will be of significant value to future researchers studying these times, and may also serve as a cathartic outlet for those moved to create. “We really want to know what this experience is looking like for the Ryerson community: alumni, students who studied and did their exams from home, professors and instructors who are teaching from home, for folks who are working from home,” says Alison Skyrme, Special Collections librarian. “I’ve heard from some Ryerson alumni who are working on things, one in particular is videotaping her drive to work downtown in one of the hospitals - it's a completely different experience now.”

A dog on an empty street on a sunny day

A Ryerson community member shared this photo of an empty Woodbine Ave. in Toronto at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday.

The content the team receives may also be used for extensive curation purposes, says Sassur. “That will probably look like experiential learning opportunities for future students to work with the material, both on the digitization management side of things and also creating digital humanities websites out of material.”

Community members are encouraged to contribute original digital content from a wide variety of possible formats including photographs, videos, diaries, journals and other written content related to COVID-19. Contributed content will eventually be made publicly available.

To read more about the archive including submission guidelines or to submit your own content, visit the Ryerson Library Special Collections website.

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