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News Release

March 30, 2020

History students collecting local stories about COVID-19 pandemic

Students and faculty in Northwest Missouri State University’s Department of Humanities and Social Sciences are capturing local stories of the COVID-19 pandemic to preserve the community’s memories of the health crisis.

Community members are invited to share photos, videos or written experiences by submitting them to Participants will be asked to complete a participant agreement form and then a participant profile, which provides information to contextualize the source and information for future researchers; the participant profile will not be accessible by the public.

Dr. Dawn Gilley, an associate professor of humanities and the chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, is directing the project in collaboration with history faculty members Dr. Elyssa Ford and Dana Ternus.

“The digital platform is a way for us to easily preserve the collective memory of everyone in our community so that we might learn something from it,” Gilley said. “I suspect the city of Maryville and Northwest leadership have already learned a few things about communicating to the masses and about decision-making during a crisis. But beyond communication, future scholars will be able to learn a great deal about the experiences of people, at varying stages of life, during this pandemic.”

The archived experiences of people who lived through earlier pandemics such as the Spanish Flu of 1918 or the Black Death of 1348 provide valuable insight to historians and scholars. When it comes to COVID-19, Gilley noted, future scholars may compare the urban experience to those of rural residents, or the experiences of college students to high school students. 

The idea for “Northwest Coronavirus Stories” grew from other universities that are taking on similar projects, Gilley said. Additionally, Northwest already has a digital platform in place through an ongoing digital humanities project the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences launched in 2018 to collect stories related to the University’s history.

“We had the tools we needed to create something of our own – something that had a digital foundation that could meet learning outcomes for the creation of source material as well as the preservation of archival content,” Gilley said. “It was also a way for us to tie together, in a much more obvious way, the relationship between public history and museum studies and digital humanities. I am not sure I can say this project would have gotten off the ground if it had not been for university campuses across the world going to online delivery and our ongoing digital humanities project.”

As part of the project, Northwest history and social studies education majors also are recording their experiences related to COVID-19 in “quarantine diaries.” The profession-based learning project will provide students with experience in archival work and using diaries as sources – as well as an opportunity to be part of history by creating a primary source. 

“For our students, this is, hopefully, a once-in-a-lifetime experience to engage in the creation of a primary source, something they so rarely get to do,” Gilley said. “Additionally, our students will be able to engage in digital archive work using an active digital archive for data organization and analysis.”

Northwest faculty and staff also are submitting experiences the project, and Gilley hopes all ages of community members find a way to contribute to the project.

“We hope that 20, 30, 50 years down the road, we have created something that can be used to tell the story of the experience and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to Northwest and the Maryville communities,” Gilley said. “Projects similar to ours are being created all over the world, which puts Northwest and Maryville in contact with these other projects and gives our small slice of rural America a voice that is often overlooked.”

For more information about the Northwest Coronavirus Stories project, contact the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at 660.562.1290 or


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215