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A University of Alberta sociologist is collecting observations, reflections and stories of COVID-19 from the public, in all formats imaginable, for a new website called Stories of the Pandemic.

The site is meant to serve as a community resource for people to better understand an unprecedented time in our lives, said co-curator Amy Kaler. It aims to collect everything from short fiction and essays to diary entries, songs, photography and artwork.

“Everybody’s got a story, and everybody has gone through experiences that, for good or bad, they may not have seen coming,” she said.

Amy Kaler

Amy Kaler

So far the diversity of expression has been striking, said Kaler, who is aided in her work by doctoral students Rezvaneh Erfani Hossein Pour in sociology and Subash Giri from music. Most contributors are in “descriptive mode,” hoping to capture their experience as accurately as possible and bear witness to this extraordinary moment in history.

Some prefer to analyze or generalize, explained Kaler, asking themselves, “What is this experience telling me, what is it teaching me? What do I understand now because I’ve been immersed in a pandemic?”

One contributor remarked on the generosity and small acts of kindness people are capable of during times of crisis, and wondered why she hadn’t appreciated it until now. Others see only the darker side of their confinement, focusing on isolation, loneliness and misery.

“One person wrote a poem describing what it feels like to be addicted to their bedroom, stuck in this one place they can never leave,” said Kaler.

Stories of the Pandemic has received a few dozen submissions so far, and Kaler said she hopes it will pick up more once people have had time to process what they’re going through.

It’s also when she expects to see more fiction and more elaborate forms of artistic expression.

“Maybe in time more people will be consciously setting out to create art, rather than using their skills to make immediate sense of the pandemic,” said Kaler.

The website has a five-year timeline before funding runs out. Eventually it will be housed in the U of A Archives, she said.

Anyone is welcome to submit as long as their work relates in some way to the pandemic experience. And though submissions are vetted before posting, Kaler said her team isn’t looking for polished work or “the perfect analysis of what’s going on,” she said.

“You don’t have to have everything pulled together and clearly understood, and we’re open to pretty much any form that can be transmitted on the internet.”

Supported by the Faculty of Arts, Stories of the Pandemic is part of a larger “signature area” for the faculty called Stories of Change, which aims to explore “the intersection between people’s individual, personal everyday lives and big social, political, economic and ecological transformation,” said Kaler.

Those interested in submitting to Stories of the Pandemic should contact Stories of Change at [email protected].

| By Geoff McMaster

This article was submitted by the University of Alberta’s online publication Folio, a Troy Media content provider partner.

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