Keeping diaries, making history: Where to start

Colin Rivera, Staff Writer


Due to present circumstances, many students find themselves in their homes avoiding family members. Spending the day at home is typically considered a lazy activity and when people are asked what they did during that time, one of the most common responses is that they have not done anything. When stepping away from one’s immediate circumstances, there was often more accomplished than just a lazy day at home. The way people have been socializing has shifted on both a local, and global scale. It is something historic and needs to be properly recorded. 

Saint Martin’s own O’Grady Library as an effort to preserve this moment is putting together a historical archive. They are asking for volunteers who would be willing to submit their own diaries and journals so historians in the future can use them as a reference for what these extraordinary times were like.

The project was initiated by Aaron Goings, Ph.D., Amy Stewart-Mailhot, and Kael Moffat. “[We] thought this could be an important way to preserve people’s everyday experiences during this turbulent time. We’re hoping to provide a glimpse into the local/Saint martin’s experience,” said Goings.

Contributing to the effort can be something as simple as keeping a journal of one’s daily life and recording all the things they did in a day; or transcribing news events. The group will also take in submissions from people who express themselves in formats other than writing – specifically drawings and poems, but even audio or video recordings will be accepted.

Where do contributed works go? They will be sent to the archive on campus within the O’Grady Library, and will be secured in much the same way their other holdings are. In case any potential submitters are shy about their work, they should know their work will be publicly available, but it will be held for a number of years before it is displayed. Goings said it could be as long as twenty-five years before the archive’s release. 

“Everyone’s experiences and everyone’s voice matters,” said Goings, “Those who think their experiences are not worth sharing might be the ones whose experiences are most important to share in part because their voices are likely very under-represented in archives, libraries, and most history books.” 

One of the hopes in gathering volunteers for this project is that people develop an appreciation for journaling that lasts beyond the length of this quarantine. One thing Goings has found lacking in archives of historical events is a wide variety of perspectives, often due to the fact that most people who kept diaries in the past were of higher social standing. However, this is a smaller group than the vast majority of people who experience the worst of historical events, but are often too busy to write their stories. 

“These voices, not surprisingly, aren’t well represented in the media. Saint Martin’s is a diverse community- this is an opportunity for everyone to have a voice,” said Goings.

Students, as well as their friends and family, are encouraged to participate in the project. For more information, people can visit the O’Grady Library page on the Saint Martin’s website, and click the link titled “Keeping Diaries, Making History: Call for Volunteers.”

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