Edmonton

Why a U of A sociologist wants your stories of the COVID-19 pandemic

The project is part of a research network studying stories and large societal changes.

'Stories of the Pandemic' site gathering contributions that grapple with health crisis

A new website linked to the University of Alberta showcases a wide range of stories about the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock/Robie Online)

An interdisciplinary team from the University of Alberta wants your stories about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sociology professor Amy Kaler and her colleagues are gathering tales — fictional and non-fictional — for their new Stories of the Pandemic website.

The site will serve scholars analyzing the social effects of the pandemic, but that's not its main purpose, Kaler said.

"It really is meant as a community service," she said Tuesday in an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

The website is one of hundreds of similar projects around the world collecting pandemic-related stories online.

"Ours will be part of this broad movement to record, capture and to work with the material the pandemic is presenting us with," Kaler said.

Stories of all formats welcome

Contributors have already submitted a range of stories to the project, including diary entries, essays, poems, drawings, photographs, videos and musical performances.

One image submission shows a cartoon cat and bottle of disinfectant fighting COVID-19 from two directions. An emotional essay describes a trip to an Edmonton Public Library branch to pick up a stack of holds. In another essay, a contributor recounts a yeast-buying mission that led her to reflect on her past.

A common theme that has emerged from the submissions so far is isolation, Kaler said.

Some have written about their distress over lacking social interaction but others have brought up some of the benefits of a lot of alone time, such as increased productivity.

In one of his submissions to the site, Don Hamaliuk describes what it feels like being in quarantine for two weeks. 

The project is part of the faculty of arts's research network "Stories of Change," which examines the intersection of stories and large political, economic, environmental and cultural changes.

The research network, which launched about a year ago, has funding for five years, but Kaler said she has a hard time imagining an end date for the pandemic-themed project.

"I think people will be thinking about, processing and creating ideas related to the spring and summer of 2020 for years to come," she said.

Story submissions to the site can be emailed to this address.

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