By Laura Childs, Emerging Technologies Librarian, and Mariah Lewis, Metadata Management Librarian
In March 2020, Fordham University faculty, students, and staff felt the usual day-to-day operations of their lives slam to a halt. The pandemic challenged the entire Fordham community to be more resilient, more creative, and more aware than ever before. During this time, a team of librarians launched the Fordham University COVID-19 Digital Archive.
This digital collection began as a way to chronicle the experiences we had during the pandemic, but has grown into an example of Fordham’s perseverance in times of crisis. Below, we will highlight some of the top items within the collections, the technological upgrades that have been made to adequately present such a dynamic collection, and how you can contribute to this ever-evolving collection.
Highlights From the Digital Archive
Fordham Research Commons: The COVID-19 Digital Research Collection
The COVID-19 Digital Research Collection is a new addition to our institutional repository, the Fordham Research Commons. It features articles published by Fordham faculty members. Dr. Dean McKay, an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department, is a frequent contributor. Papers in this collection have been downloaded hundreds of times, from researchers all over the world, over the past year. We are seeking to archive as many COVID-19 related faculty publications as possible.
If you have research to contribute, please complete this submission form.
Interviews with Students, Faculty, and Staff
Stories told by members of the Fordham community are a critical part of the Digital Archive. There are video and audio interviews with students, staff, and faculty members in the archive, all conducted virtually. We aim to capture more interviews as we move forward.
If you are interested in being interviewed, please submit this form.
One of our favorite interviews is The Fordham Observer Panel Interview, recorded on July 14th, 2020. It is a discussion between librarian Mariah Lewis, co-founder of the Digital Archive, and Observer staff about their experience reporting during the pandemic.
Another interview features Kaela Economos, MSW, who is the social work supervisor of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Fordham Law School (listen below). Ms. Economos is part of the team at Lincoln Square Legal Services, a nonprofit dedicated to helping underserved clients in need of legal assistance. At the start of the pandemic, they launched the LSLS COVID-19 Incarcerated Clients Correspondence Project to provide incarcerated individuals with support and up-to-date information about COVID-19 that they would not otherwise have access to.
Ms. Economos also generously donated actual letters from the project to the digital archive, and we are proud to document the vital work being done by the Fordham community during this time.
Virtual University Events
Along with classes, university events had to shift entirely to a virtual format. Many of these events have been recorded and archived, including the Fordham University 2020 Commencement Ceremony, which was held entirely online because of the pandemic.
Photographs of Campus Life
Fordham’s campuses have looked quite different since last year. For months, campus was nearly empty except for essential employees. Then, testing tents appeared along with safety precautions in buildings, on lawns, and even on chairs. Archiving these photos helps us document safety measures around campus, and we invite you to submit your photos.
The Twice Over podcast collection is archived courtesy of Dr. Anne Fernald (Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Special Advisor to the Provost for Faculty Development) and Dr. Steven D’Agustino (Director of Online Learning). Their podcast has been going strong for the past year, and we are excited to continue archiving their work.
University Emails and Communications
We have collected emails from departments and individuals across the university, such as the Office of the President, Human Resources, Alumni Relations, and Public Safety. These communications make it possible to see how COVID-19 unfolded at Fordham in real-time.
These emails from March 2020 trace the first stages of the pandemic in New York City and Fordham University’s response:
- Coronavirus Response | A Message from the President | March 5, 2020
- President’s COVID-19 Update | March 9, 2020, Noon
- University Operations | Update March 13, 2020, 8 p.m
- …and more here.
A Glimmer of Hope
Now, one year later, the rollout of vaccines has led to a possible light at the end of the tunnel: the University announced on March 9th, 2021 that there will be a full return face-to-face classes and activities for the Fall 2021 semester. No one can know what the next six months will hold, but Fordham is hoping (and preparing) for the best.
It is difficult to believe that a year ago today, Fordham took the extraordinary step of suspending face-to-face instruction to protect the campus community from the threat of the COVID-19 virus. Through the past year, the pandemic has upended virtually every aspect of our lives. Yet hope is finally on the way, as safe and effective vaccines are rapidly being distributed locally, nationally, and globally. I am pleased to share with you the news that Fordham is preparing to offer the full range of in-person instruction and on-campus activities this fall.– Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President
Digital Collections Technology Upgrades
With the help of the library’s web team, we have made many improvements to the functionality of our digital collections to accommodate the new types of content being archived. These upgrades include:
- Embedding audio and video players into the collection. Video and audio players such as YouTube, Vimeo, Spotify, and others can now be embedded in the digital collection. The videos hosted in the collections can now be embedded in other locations on the web.
- Creating a WARC player to allow users to interact with archived web content. WARC files are most frequently used for Web Archiving. This allows what was once static image captures of websites to become interactive and usable.
- Increased search capabilities using facets. Now multiple facets can be used at once to narrow your results.
- Improved PDF viewer with OCR capabilities.
- Transcription search functionality. This allows users to search within a transcript for audiovisual materials and go to the portion of the video that matches their search terms.
We Need Your Help to Grow
Our goal is to capture the ongoing experiences of our community. As we continue forward into the second year of the pandemic, we are still seeking contributions from Fordham faculty, students, and staff.
Do you have any of the following that you would like to have archived?*
- Research, articles, and other scholarly output related to COVID-19.
- Photographs documenting life around campus.
- Podcasts or audio recordings.
- Video recordings of Fordham events (with consent).
- Course materials or student work (with student consent).
- Written accounts of personal experiences during COVID-19.
- University communications and correspondence received by students, staff, and faculty relating to classes, housing, campus operations, specific academic departments, etc.
To contribute an item, please fill out the submission form. If you have questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also looking to conduct more interviews with members of the Fordham community. If you are interested in being interviewed, please complete this form and a library staff member will reach out to you to schedule a 30-minute virtual interview session.
*Please note that you must be the creator/copyright holder of any items you submit for consideration or receive written permission from the creator/copyright holder to share it. The digital collections team also reserves the right to deny any submissions that do not meet the scope of the archive.