Campus News

New UK Libraries Collection to Help Current, Future Generations Picture Kentucky Life During Pandemic

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black and white photo of empty store shelves from "In This Together"
artwork by Duha Jassim - "In This Together"
photo of Megan Lucy and baby Cecilia - "In This Together
photo of green light in window from "In This Together"
working on a laptop with cat on shoulder - In This Together
photo of #TeamKentucky chalked sidewalk - In This Together
photo of woman seated 6 feet away from another chair - In This Together
photo of signage in shop window on May 2, 2020 - "In This Together"

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 25, 2020)

My first doctor appointment in years.

It took abnormal breathing and virtual convenience.

I’m working from home.

I’m young. I’m healthy otherwise.

I might have COVID-19.

Oh wait, my partner works on campus. He could spread this thing.

I’m self isolated and don’t need to be tested now.

Save the tests for those who need it.

 

Living with low immunity is scary.

If I was older, I could die.

When I’m older, if this happens again, I’m at risk.

There’s so many people living with fear right now.

I have fear and I’m young!

 

So many people have this. So many people must be struggling too.

Yet I feel so alone.

 

Told my mom.

Told my grandparents.

Now my family knows.

And with those words, coronavirus survivor and University of Kentucky communication doctoral student and College of Communication and Information instructor Leanna Hartsough, a 27 year-old, captured just part of her personal journey amid the COVID-19 pandemic in an excerpt from her poetic diary-style entry titled "The Uncertainty."

In a 24-hour news cycle filled with statistics, it is more often than not that the more personal accounts, like Hartsough’s, have the power to break through the myriad of information being offered on TV and the internet to reach the viewer’s heart on the other side of that screen. It is testimonies like this that a new collection at University of Kentucky LibrariesSpecial Collections Research Center (SCRC) is hoping to amass from everyday Kentuckians through “In This Together: Documenting COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.”

As part of this initiative, UK archivists are actively soliciting and cataloging stories of individuals in self-isolation or on the front lines providing essential services during the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to record history while it is unfolding across the state, and the world around us. Beginning in April, the SCRC started accepting submissions from individuals who live, work or study in Kentucky.

"We typically think of archives as places to study the distant past, but archivists work to ensure we build contemporary and historic collections for future examination. We are in an historical moment right now and technology allows us to ask our community to take an active role in creating collective history in real time. It is an unprecedented chance for us to preserve the collective voices of Kentuckians," Associate Dean of SCRC Deirdre Scaggs said.

From coronavirus-themed poetry and photographs of remote education and store signage on relatively empty streets to written and oral accounts of personal living experiences, UK Libraries has already received several submissions that have captured the interest of archivists. One special account, included photographs and the story of the roller coaster of emotions new mother Megan Lucy, a faculty resources coordinator in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, experienced as she delivered her daughter Cecilia the weekend Kentucky began to implement restrictions and March Madness was canceled. 

And with this archival material being collected by a university research library system, the SCRC has also made a concentrated effort to pull together submissions that focus on what this time has been like for members of the Big Blue family, including Wildcats who were asked to return home from Spring Break to finish their college semester. Among these UK accounts is a selection of blog posts from a class who documented their own pandemic experiences as part of their final project. Another special submission is a painting by 2020 biology graduate Duha Jassim, a student assistant in the Agricultural Information Center who minored in art studio. In addition to art, campus photos and written accounts, archivists also received oral histories like one recorded by Rachel Combs, alumna and public services manager for UK’s Science & Engineering Library, who shared her feelings as she watched changes on campus, at home and around the state during the first week of Kentucky’s healthy at home order. To hear Combs’s account, play the audio file above.

While some restrictions have lifted, other states have seen an uptick in numbers making it evident that the pandemic is not over. For this reason, the work continues. UK Libraries SCRC archivists are encouraging Kentuckians to continue to share their COVID-19 stories. Currently, nine Central Kentucky counties are represented by the collection, but SCRC would like to receive submissions from citizens across the Commonwealth. Whether it is your concerns about society’s response to recommendations or your first travel experience in Kentucky, or beyond the state’s borders, since the start of quarantine, UK Libraries wants to hear from you.

"How has the pandemic continued to impact your life? Let us save your experiences so that history tells YOUR story. Please continue to submit or start contributing now," Scaggs said.

To participate in “In This Together,” send submissions of such COVID-19 related archival materials as:

  • uploaded photographs, videos and/or art;
  • oral histories and other audio recordings; and/or
  • provided written content (diary or journal entries, documents related to pandemic, etc.).

Make submissions of information at the following JotForm: https://form.jotform.com/201004347258043. For non-English speakers, UK Libraries has also provided Spanish instructions on how to submit to the collection at http://libraries.uky.edu/juntos-en-esto.

In particular, UK Libraries SCRC urges Kentuckians to consider submitting more photos. The medium will give future users a better idea of the impact the pandemic has had on community landscapes and friend and family relationships, as well as a visual representation of strategies employed to fight COVID-19 like masks, social distancing or different kinds of virtual presentations.

“If you’ve taken a photograph of a park or sidewalk art or people social distancing — these are all things we want to document,” said Megan Mummey, assistant director of collections.

The Special Collections Research Center at UK Libraries sustains the Commonwealth's memory and serves as the essential bridge between past, present and future. By preserving materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of Kentucky, the center provides rich opportunities for students to expand their worldview and enhance their critical thinking skills. Special Collections Research Center materials are used by scholars worldwide to advance original research and pioneer creative approaches to scholarship. UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center is the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection, the John G. Heyburn Initiative and ExploreUK.

 

* Read Leanna Hartsough's "The Uncertainty" in its entirety below. Hartsough shared it to spread awareness of young, otherwise healthy individuals who can also struggle with the sickness.

The Uncertainty

By Leanna Hartsough

 

I don’t know what this is, but this sickness isn’t a cold.

My body hurts. Head to toe.

Headache. To ear ache.

Tummy ache (something I’m used to.)

Feet and all muscles are sore.

I have to work but I have to feel better. I guess I’ll focus on both.

 

This day is so long. I’m hot but I’m normally cold.

This night is so confusing. I’m now cold but sweating.

This night is so abnormal. I can’t sleep yet my body restricts movement.

Maybe this is serious.

 

Next day, still sore.

I can actually eat without forcing it.

Wow am I full.

Wait, that might not be fullness. It’s hard to breath.

Air is restricted. Forcing it-- there’s resistance.

 

My first doctor appointment in years.

It took abnormal breathing and virtual convenience.

I’m working from home.

I’m young. I’m healthy otherwise.

I might have COVID-19.

Oh wait, my partner works on campus. He could spread this thing.

I’m self isolated and don’t need to be tested now.

Save the tests for those who need it.

 

Living with low immunity is scary.

If I was older, I could die.

When I’m older, if this happens again, I’m at risk.

There’s so many people living with fear right now.

I have fear and I’m young!

 

So many people have this. So many people must be struggling too.

Yet I feel so alone.

 

Told my mom.

Told my grandparents.

Now my family knows.

 

Some family members say, “Sounds like you have anxiety.” “Sounds like you’re stressed.”

I empathetically listened. I disagreed yet listened.

My family doesn't want to hear that their close relative has this.

They want to believe it’s not the case.

I don’t want to scare them. I want to talk to them when I have good news.

My partner I live with doesn’t want to believe it.

We’re socially distant because I keep socially distant.

 

Well here’s to stocking up on immunity boosters.

Every day.

Thanks to my mom and my partner.

My mornings are dedicated to health.

Once I have enough energy, I can begin to work.

I push through it. I have things due.

 

I came to terms with this.

When I recover, I will have less fear.

Less fear of getting it.

Less fear of spreading it.

 

Day 4 and able to workout at least. Some movement helps.

Next day Sunday yoga, my legs shake during poses I do frequently.

Next day Monday ab work, easy workout, I’ll be fine.

After workout, legs shake. Can barely walk.

Felt like I ran stadium stairs. I didn’t even think I worked my legs?

 

One week in, I feel heavy. There’s resistance in every step.

How much do I weigh any way? It feels like 384750234lbs.

Oh wow, I lost 4 lbs.

 

The only COVID-19 symptom I didn’t get was the cough.

Nevermind, I have the cough.

I can’t think of a reason why I don’t have COVID-19.

Maybe this isn’t so uncertain?

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.