About the Boston Collection

The Boston Collection focuses on the experiences of people living and working in Greater Boston during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis. As we work to preserve a public record of this time, we invite users to share stories, pictures, documents, and other material that illuminates how life has changed as a result of the pandemic.

What should you contribute? Anything you think might be of interest or use to future historians. What do you think best captures the impact of the pandemic on Boston’s neighborhoods, cultural institutions, universities, hospitals, and residents? We want to preserve the extraordinary moments, but also whatever ordinary objects and stories best represent the diversity of Bostonians’ daily experiences during this historical event.

Led by faculty, staff and students at Northeastern University and Suffolk University, the Boston Collection branch of the Journal of the Plague Year project is a trans-institutional collaboration. For more information about how to get involved, please contact a member of our team. For specific information about the larger project, visit the Journal of the Plague Year main website.

The Boston Collection is part of the broader Journal of the Plague Year digital archive. Inspired by Daniel Defoe’s novel of the same name, this archive also seeks to chronicle daily life during a pandemic. A Journal of the Plague Year was initiated by Catherine O'Donnell, Richard Amesbury, and Mark Tebeau in the School for Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. The Journal of the Plague Year is supported financially by the public history endowment at Arizona State University, a fund endowed by Noel Stowe. The Boston Collection is supported by Northeastern University's College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Recent Additions to the Collection

  • Resilient Child, Resilient Mom- Reflection on 2020

    The first picture was taken April 29, 2020. Remote schooling was not going to end, we thought it would only last a couple of weeks. My child was falling apart, I was falling apart. The second picture was taken about seven months later, November 27, 2020. I had been furloughed, school opened up and then went remote again, we learned how to wear masks, we learned how to social distance. We joined the family bubble, in Illinois. I reflect in January 2021 and I want to note that we are figuring it out together. We continue to teach each other. The second picture is my favorite picture of 2020 that I took. I think this picture speaks to the attitude we are putting forward together. This is a picture of my daughter with her cousin, this picture gives me hope and energy.
  • Vampire Weekend’s “Campus” TikTok trend

    For many in gen Z, TikTok has become a form of escape during the quarantine. The range of content on the app means there is something for everyone and really allows anyone to find a niche. Towards the beginning of the semester, one of the big trends on the app was to show clips of your college/university set to the song “Campus” by vampire weekend. For many, this was a reaction to the fact we are missing out on a significant part of our young adulthood, actually being at college and on campus. Many people also did the trend in a different way, showing clips of their house or apartment, which has become their campus. I decided to take my own spin on it, and take clips whenever I found myself doing schoolwork in cool spots. The college experience looks very different for everyone right now, but I think it is fair to say that my generation has struggled with the fact that we are losing out on time that we will not get back. Adults who are in the middle of their careers might not be having a great time, but by and large, they are not missing out on much other than their normal routine, but that feels much more significant to college students, who only have four years at their school and so have lost off on basically a quarter of their undergrad experience
  • COVID in the Navajo Nation

    When I was originally planning my trip, I hoped to visit Antelope Canyon, as well as a few other parks on the Navajo Reservation, but the Navajo Nation has been one of the hardest-hit regions in the country, so by the time I was in the area, the parks were closed, and even if they had been open, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable visiting and spreading it more, even if I would have been outside and away from people. Because of that experience I wanted to take this space to try to amplify their experience. This Instagram account records the experience of an organization providing relief to members of the tribe. There are only 45 search results for Navajo in the archive, which I would constitute as an archival silence considering that many cities with comparable populations have hundreds of entries. I know that taking a screenshot of a website can only tell you so much, but it is the best way I could come up with of elevating the voices of the Navajo Nation, which is an important practice to engage within the context of archival work.
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