Living Through a Pandemic: Eight Months of Donations to the American Heritage Center’s COVID-19 Collection Project

The AHC COVID-19 Collection Project began in April 2020 as an effort to collect stories, photographs, poems, and other creative works that show the impact coronavirus has had on our community. Not just the University of Wyoming employees, students, and alumni, but the larger Laramie, and Wyoming communities as well. In March 2020, the University of Wyoming closed its campus to in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students received an extra week of spring break giving instructors time to move all courses to an online format.

These unprecedented events in our own community and the global impact of this crisis inspired the AHC COVID-19 Collection Project. As the pandemic continues to evolve and effect everyday life (professional and personal), the AHC encourages our community to continue the conversations, support for each other, donate descriptions of what you see, feel, and hear, and take our survey as your observations change.

Pop Up Paint Party in Laramie, Wyoming started hosting free online paint parties to foster safe community interactions. Photo taken by Hanna Fox and Amanda Wells, April 2020.

To date, the AHC has received forty-two survey responses from people of a variety of demographics including age groups, genders, ethnicities, and nationalities. The survey has sixteen questions including “what were your first thoughts when you heard about COVID-19”; “what are some things that are making you feel happy or hopeful”; and “what are some things that are making you feel frustrated, anxious, or angry.”

One response to our question about what people 100 years from now should know about the impact of COVID-19 in our community is as follows:

For me, the pandemic has deepened ideological, cultural, and political divisions more than uniting us as a society. The pandemic has revealed the lack of national leadership, the dearth of resources and programs to protect the most vulnerable in US society, and the historically high levels of economic inequality that currently exist in the US. It’s shameful that the pandemic has stripped bare the illusion that the US, as a society, is a shining beacon for other countries to emulate (Germany, for instance, responded very well & had inspiring, uniting leadership). When all is said & done, the US will be remembered as the country with the least effective national response and the highest death toll.

Another response to the same question is as follows:

It has been nice to see people come together to support each other. It also needs to be remembered how small groups of people can make a big impact, positively or negatively.

People view this crisis differently and reactions are diverse. Members of the community have taken to supporting each other through hosting virtual events or even simply placing a bear in the window of their house to bring a smile to their neighbors’ faces.

Sally Sarvey from Casper dressed up William “Shakesbear” Shakespeare and displayed him in the window for children passing her house. Photo taken by Sally Sarvey, May 2020.

Others have turned to creating artwork or photographing visual representations from the community to express the pandemic’s impact.

VISCERAL, charcoal and pastel on prepared polyester, 43″ x 43″, 2020. This is drawing is of a gut pile from a pronghorn antelope harvested fall 2019 just outside Laramie, WY. The animal fed the artist’s family through the continuing lock down. Artwork created by Shelby Shadwell.
Downtown Laramie mural depicting a jackalope and pronghorn wearing masks. Photograph taken by Hanna Fox and Amanda Wells, April 2020.

Here are a few last thoughts from our survey responses to keep in mind as we continue living through these strange times:

This has been a trying time for many people, and I am happy to see those that are trying to make the best of it, through whatever means necessary. I’ve seen family and friends come together to help where possible, whether that shopping for compromised people, sewing masks, using 3D printers to make needed things, help teach students online, or any number of things. Communities are coming together and it shows.

Always be kind to yourself and others. We are all doing our best within our current capacity to do so. Those actions are what will be remembered and have the most impact.

To contribute to the historical record of this momentous time or learn more about the project, please visit the AHC COVID-19 Collection Project webpage at All donors can elect whether to remain anonymous and even to keep their contributions from being viewed for up to five years. #COVID19WY #alwaysarchiving

– Post contributed by AHC University Archivist Sara Davis

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