Chicago Archives in the Time of Covid: College of American Pathologists

02 Nov 2020 12:58 PM | Doris Cardenas (Administrator)


CAA members are sharing stories of how the pandemic has affected their lives and work. Here is the first story of our web series submitted by Drew Davis from the College of American Pathologists.


Pandemics, Anniversaries and Preschool

COVID-19 has presented a unique challenge to archivists. As professionals whose fates are bound to our collections, COVID forced some of us to forge a new workflow apart from the physical materials in our repositories. Other archivists currently face the loss of their position and the difficult task of seeking new employment during a pandemic. COVID continues to touch archivists and their loved ones on both ends of this spectrum.

My experience falls somewhere between these extremes. My organization, a nonprofit medical association, is approaching our 75th anniversary next year. To commemorate, we are producing an updated organizational history edited by one of our former presidents. My original task in this work was to conduct historical review of this publication, while my supervisor served as a staff-member liaison and managed the financial and contractual aspects of the project. Unfortunately, my supervisor sadly and unexpectedly passed away from a non-COVID related medical complication in March of this year. Her death occurred at the same time that our organization shifted to remote work, and I had to simultaneously adjust to working from home, reporting to a new supervisor and taking on many of my former supervisor’s project duties.

 In addition, working from home with young children has proved extremely difficult. My children (aged 3 and 5) both started remote preschool in September, and on many days I must unexpectedly leave my “office” (our basement) to help corral them back into their virtual classrooms. Other times of day I find myself trying to focus on a task while the sound of little footsteps patter back and forth across the ceiling above me. There has been more than one occasion where my children have been “surprise guests” in a staff meeting. While I did receive permission to come into the archives one day a week to work on reference requests, it is unclear if that permission will be rolled back as Illinois infection rates climb back up.

I have settled into a COVID working routine, and with the help of a part-time assistant archivist have been able to maintain the workflow of the archives and our historical publication despite working (mostly) offsite. While I consider myself extremely lucky that I still have an archives job, I cannot deny that I yearn for the days when personal coworker interaction and work in my stacks were the norm.


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