Archives documenting how Pitt reacted to COVID-19


As we all live through this significant moment in history, the University Archives is seeking help from faculty, staff and students to document the impact of COVID-19 on the Pitt community, as well as the University’s response to the pandemic.

The archives, part of the University Library System, is already collecting websites and emails — including all of the University’s official communications — related to the crisis. Pitt students, faculty and staff can contribute by collecting records that document their experiences or just recounting their experiences and sharing them through a new University Archives webpage.

“We're documenting what's happening in real time,” said Zach Brodt, University archivist, “and trying to capture, not just what's being published about the event, but getting a little bit deeper and getting more personal, about people's experiences and their stories, as they're living through this historic pandemic.

“It's kind of a unique situation for us, but it's kind of exciting to try to meet that challenge.”

For Brodt, the impetus for the project came when he was researching how the University reacted during the 1918 Spanish flu, which led him to think about “what are those resources or what are those stories that we were hoping to tell from (the 1918 flu) that we couldn't just because those documents didn't exist or those resources didn't exist.”

He particularly wants to know what the student experience is during this pandemic and what student groups are doing. He recently watched the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, for which he is an advisor, do its initiation ceremony on Zoom. “They did an amazing job, but with looking back 100 years ago, we don't get those kinds of stories outside of maybe Pitt weekly.”

The resulting archive of reflections and files will be available for future research. A digital preservation librarian was hired last year, Brodt said, who will help make sure the information collected now is accessible in 100 years.

“Her entire job is to think about what are the best ways for us to store these types of records that we're collecting and, and how do we make sure that they're there in 100 years,” he said.

Add to the collection

While records documenting all aspects of your experience will be considered for inclusion, there are some topics of particular interest.

For faculty and staff

  • Course syllabi and teaching materials created for online learning. (If you created class projects or assignments relating to COVID-19, please contact the archives to discuss possible deposit options.)

  • Departmental and school planning documentation and other communications.

  • Guidelines and personal reflections on adjusting to teaching or working from home.

  • Communications sent to your students (for courses, advising, etc.).

  • Advice that faculty are getting on how to quickly train and move in-person classes online.

For students

  • Communications relating to University housing. (How were you notified to vacate? Changing messages and notifications, etc.)

  • Messages from faculty about how their classes would continue online.

  • Material showing how student organizations handled the pandemic. (Did they stop or adapt for the remainder of the semester?)

  • Photographs and video documenting move out, student life during the campus closure and stay at home order, etc.

  • Journals, artwork or other ways in which students documented their personal experiences.

All electronic documents can be submitted via Box. When possible, documents should be saved as PDF for text, WAV for videos, or TIF or JPG for photos. If you have physical items to donate to the collection, contact the University Archives. By uploading files to the Pitt COVID-19 Archive, donors certify that they created and own the copyright to the submitted material.

If you do not have electronic or physical documents to deposit, but would still like to share your experiences, please complete this survey.

If you have any questions about this process or the project, contact the University Archive.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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