Capturing and preserving history as it is being made

Judith Raiskin (left) and Linda Long

Editor’s note: Beyond the Call is a new section in Around the O Workplace that highlights the exceptional work of UO employees during COVID-19. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

Linda LongLinda Long
Senior Librarian and Curator of Manuscripts for Special Collections and University Archives

How long have you worked at the UO?

I've been at the UO for little over 20 years now.

Tell us about your work:

My job is to acquire new manuscript collections so they can be processed, catalogued and made available for research. They range from historical documents to more contemporary materials. For example, I gathered documents for the Occupy Eugene movement. It includes letters, meeting minutes, agenda reports, photographs, posters and all different kinds of cool stuff that will be valuable for research.

What does your workday look like during COVID-19?

Most all library staff are working from home. Occasionally we can go into the library but it has to be staggered so we maintain safety and security. It was a lot of scrambling to figure out how to maintain order and get staff working at home. There was just so much staff had to do and figure out to provide access to resources. People have gone above and beyond to do whatever is necessary.

One project I’m working on is to try to figure out how to preserve any of the records produced on how the university is handling this crisis. There are so many parallels between the influenza pandemic of 1918 to 1920 and the crisis we are coping with now. So far, I have acquired survey results from students in Professor Anne Laskaya's freshmen runway class where students worked on a final project last spring to survey fellow freshmen about their experiences. The results show the students' challenges, fears and discomforts during this difficult time. Paired with other collections I'll acquire including official UO administration emails and notices; writings by faculty, student and staff; and oral history interviews, this collection will be quite useful and illuminating many years from now when researchers want to know what happened on our campus during the pandemic.

I’d also like to preserve social media documents and try to capture documents reflecting the student experience during the pandemic because hundreds of years from now people will want to know how the university coped with the pandemic and what the student experiences were like.

What is keeping you motivated during this challenging time?

Knowing that there will be an end to this and knowing that things will resolve. I really feel for the university administrators. But just like the university managed to survive back in 1918 to 1920, we'll survive too.

Linda Long is a part of UO Libraries. Read more about her work on the Lesbian Oral History project.

Do you know someone who has gone beyond the call? Nominate a UO employee.