Documenting your COVID-19 experiences

The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic is a monumental moment in history, one that researchers, students, and citizens will examine for years to come.

To help preserve our community’s story, the University of Iowa Libraries’ University Archives, and the Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio are partnering on a project to collect and preserve first-hand accounts of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Community members can submit journal entries, emails, photographs, videos, audio recordings, art, and other documentation of how the UI and Iowa City community have been affected. The materials will be collected and published to a website.

“While it’s hard to imagine that we’re a part of history, we indeed are,” says David McCartney, UI archivist. “It’s important for us to remember we all have a role in this, and our roles are certainly important to document for future generations.”

Similar efforts were taken during the historic 2008 flood that devastated parts of the community, including the UI campus.

McCartney says it’s hard to anticipate what future researchers will want to learn about current events, but he says there is never enough information about the experience of individuals during previous situations such as this.

“For example, we know too little about our university community during the influenza epidemic of 1918,” McCartney says. “We have reports from newspapers, but little else.”

The COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching effects on society, impacting disciplines as varied as medicine, psychology, urban planning, public health, sociology, history, politics, and visual and performing arts.

“There is always interest on the part of researchers as to how institutions and governments respond to crises like this, but also in regular folks like you and me who are living it day to day,” McCartney says.

How to participate

UI Libraries is interested in stories from Iowans, particularly those in the UI and Iowa City communities, about how this has affected your life. This could include the shift to remote instruction and learning, studying and working from home, the impact of closing residence halls and other campus services, and the ways you and your friends and family are staying in touch during this period of social distancing and self-quarantine.

You can record your experiences in any of a number of ways, including writing in a journal, recording voice memos, saving your social media posts, taking photos and/or videos of life as you see it, or creating multimedia works of digital storytelling.

Please comply with any local and state stay-at-home orders while self-documenting.

To submit your story and any digital items:

  • Fill out this short questionnaire, which also may help you start and shape your story. Answer any or all of the questions, save it, and upload it along with any other items you would like to submit.
  • Use this form to submit your digital items. You will be asked to submit an agreement allowing the UI Libraries to preserve your materials, and you will receive important information about the copyright and use of your content. Most any type of format will be accepted, such as photos (jpg, png), videos (mp4, mov), audio (mp3), and text (txt, pdf, docx, doc).
  • If you interview or photograph other people in the course of your documentation, their permission will be needed. Only one person needs to attach the files to the form in the link above—co-creators can simply fill in their personal information along with a description of the materials. If releases are not completed by all participants, the materials cannot be preserved.

If you have questions, need an alternative way to transfer materials, or have physical items you would like to donate, email

Submissions will be made publicly available online following review and processing by UI Libraries staff.

You are welcome to contribute additional stories or items over the coming months as we continue to move through this historic event.

Campus resources and support available 

For the latest University of Iowa COVID-19 updates and available resources, visit


Thank you to Katie Howell of J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Katie Nash of the University of Wisconsin, and Ed Busch and Megan Badgley Malone of Michigan State University for allowing us to use text and ideas from UNCC’s Contribute Your Stories of the COVID-19 Outbreak website, the University of Wisconsin’s “Documenting COVID-19”, and Michigan State University’s Documenting COVID-19 Experiences at Michigan State University.”