Digital diaries to be displayed in a virtual exhibit

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This image was made by Camille Jessie through Canva using Sketchify elements.

Zoe Little, Social Media editor

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the University Library’s Special Collections and Archives team, alongside student archivists, are ensuring that the experiences of the Cal State LA campus community are recognized.

The Cal State LA Pandemic Diaries Project, created by the team is aiming to capture and spread awareness about the experiences of the campus community during the pandemic. Through the collection of digital diaries curated by students and faculty, over 100 video submissions were made, which will be made available for research in the future.

“Looking at what we’ve collected so far…some people are having tough times, but some people are also seeing the silver lining of things,” said Azalea Camacho, the archivist and special collections librarian who has been working on the project.

The diaries can be a video or audio recording no more than an hour and will be preserved through a digital repository in the University Archives. This way researchers can have access to first-hand accounts of the experiences members of the Cal State LA campus had during this historic pandemic.

The Special Collections team wants to continue capturing what students and faculty are experiencing during the transition back to campus. According to Camacho, they are collecting and making the digital diaries available to “make sure that the voices of our students and our campus community are heard.”

The submitted diaries recount personal experiences that inspired a group of student archivists to include them in an exhibit centered around the impact COVID has had on the Cal State LA community.

Cal State LA student assistant archivist Bryce Van Ross is working to develop the virtual exhibition, “The 20/20 Experience: Impact of COVID-19 on the Cal State LA Campus Community,” that will give the opportunity to view some of the diaries and work to “rebuild” the campus community by recounting moments from the University’s history.

The exhibit will showcase the various ways the pandemic has affected the students in the diaries. Diaries that were made in 2020 dealing with subjects such as adapting to the new classroom dynamic, responses to social or racial inequality, difficulties finding resources, or changes in household dynamic and communication will be highlighted.

While the nature of the pandemic has made the experiences of many individuals very difficult over the last year, Van Ross said that as a way to bring in positive aspects into the theme of the exhibition, they have “devoted certain sections towards the idea of hope in these times.”

Political science major Kamila Campos said she had not heard of the pandemic diaries project but is now interested in creating and submitting a diary for the project. She added that while this time has been difficult, she has been able to find success in the past year.

“I academically excelled my first semester of college. I earned a scholarship, I was able to obtain a paid internship, my parents did not lose their jobs [and] no one in my immediate family has gotten COVID,” said Campos. “I have a roof over my head, food on the table, clothes on my back, and family, friends, and pets who deeply care about me.”

Campos added advice to those still struggling, “During this time, you should find out what values you align yourself with, give gratitude, and find different ways to grow your mental, physical, and emotional persona. Your overall well-being comes first, and taking care of yourself is important to your success.”

The Pandemic Diaries project is ongoing and there is no deadline for video diary submissions. Members of the Cal State LA community interested in sharing their experiences can visit the University’s Library Special Collection and Archive site for instructions and tips. The virtual exhibition will take place in May 2021 and the diaries will soon be available for research.