The COVID Survivors Project is an oral history project aimed at using rapid response collection to document the individual lived experience of COVID infection and its aftermath. It focuses on the lived experience of ‘survivors’.
In our context, ‘survivors’ are not just those who have become infected and recovered. Rather, ‘survivors’ are:
Our effort at documenting survivorship, therefore, is not just an effort to record a feeling of trauma in the moment, but also the spaces and people that are left behind in the wake of it.
Our dystopian spring has begun to bleed into summer. We have spent what feels like endless weeks in a mode of being defined by its stasis, not knowing what is coming next, not knowing when we might see our friends and families again, not knowing when – or even if – our world will return to some semblance of the normal lives we once inhabited. For the majority of us social distancing, half-shielded faces, and staying home as a grand act of love for our community and country has come to define a world which has been upended in a mere few weeks, and turned into something none of us could have scarce imagined a few months ago.
As we acclimatise to our new normal day by day, historians and other academics are trying to record that lived experience so that we may never forget, once we are able to see one another again, what it was like to live without – without our friends, our families, and our sense of self in an open world.
But for some people, the lived experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has involved another kind of individual trauma – that of having become infected with the virus. The COVID Survivors Project is an effort to collect, collate, and preserve that lived experience so that others, both in this moment and in the future, can try to understand the experience of survivorship in this unprecedented moment in history.
Creating a record of the lived experience is an act of creating a representation of the human experience in a given moment in time. By allowing participants to use their own words to describe their experience, the project seeks to collect as authentic a representation as possible. This is why the project has chosen not to formally interview its participants; rather, each participant is encouraged to tell their story using the details, descriptions, and languages most important to the most accurate depiction of their own narrative of events.
But the lived experience is not just valuable as a static collection of historical material. There is intrinsic value, for each participant, in the act of creating their own narratives – a kind of catharsis that comes with speaking, sharing, and expressing an experience uniquely their own. Moreover, in the moment, the archive can be a useful collection of experiences for those who are currently or may in the future become infected with the virus themselves – to know that they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and to find strength and hope in the stories of others who were willing to share their trauma.
Right now, using the method of rapid response collection, we are trying to collect as many oral histories as we can in the moment. Once the pandemic reaches its end, we intend to collate those oral histories into a permanent, public, and searchable website so that future historians and others may use and consult this resource.
We are looking to collect self-recorded videos of survivors talking about their lived experience. Prompt questions are available below if you are not sure where to start which can help you to think critically about what you may want to include in your narrative. Be as open with your experience as you are comfortable being and share as many (or as few!) personal details that you find appropriate.
You will have the opportunity to upload the videos yourself through the website. Videos can easily be recorded on your smartphone or computer and uploaded directly from the point of creation. Once uploaded and approved, you can view them on our YouTube channel.
If you feel comfortable, tell us about yourself – name, age, location, vocation etc.
Tell us some details about your symptoms and their severity.
How would you describe your own journey from illness to recovery?
Alongside physical symptoms, how were you impacted psychologically?
What was your support network like? How were those relationships impacted?
How do you think your government's response impacted your experience?
By uploading your video to the COVID Survivors Project site, or by sending us audio or written testimony via email, mail, or any of our social media platforms, you consent to your submission being housed within a searchable public archive and that it may be used across our social media platforms for the purposes of archive curation.
While we think that it is important to have a visual and oral history recording of your experience, as such a medium is more compelling, we understand that not everyone is comfortable with it. If you have become inspired by the project and would still like to contribute to our archive through a different medium – for example, with an audio file, written testimony, or artwork – please get in touch with us and we will share your contribution through our social media platforms.