OHR Presents Special Section on Oral History and COVID-19

OHR solicited essays on the implications of interviewing during and about COVID-19. We are excited to publish these online today, and in print in the upcoming issue.

By Janneken Smucker, Abigail Perkiss, and David Caruso

Back in April, which simultaneously feels like two days ago and two years ago, the OHR editorial team contemplated how the lockdown, social distancing, and pandemic would affect our field, including its methods and ethics. While confronting current events is typically not the strong suit of academic publishing—due to the slow pace of reflective writing, peer review, and production cycles—we nevertheless felt it imperative that the journal contribute to discussions of whether, when, and how to document COVID-19 and its myriad effects via oral history. We turned to colleagues who we knew were thinking hard about this topic, perhaps interviewing about the pandemic, perhaps choosing to wait. This selection of essays now serves as a snapshot in time, as the articles were completed in late May, prior to the killing of George Floyd, prior to the surge in COVID-19 cases through much of the South and Southwest, and prior to the intense ongoing debates about whether and how to re-open schools and universities.  Somehow, it is now September; in some ways we have adapted to the “new normal” of the pandemic era, and in many ways we have not. 

We encourage you to join the discussion of how oral history can help document our current crises. Let us know in the comments, or by pitching a guest post, how you are navigating oral history amid pandemic. In addition to these articles, we are pleased to share resources for oral history and COVID-19, drawn from the footnotes provided by our authors.  

We are grateful to our publisher, Taylor and Francis/ Routledge, for generously making this content, and all COVID-19 related content, free from paywalls. Follow the links in the table of contents below to the full articles. 

Editors’ Introduction
Abigail Perkiss, Janneken Smucker, and David Caruso

Behind the ‘Curve’: COVID-19, Infodemic, and Oral History
Stephen Sloan

First, Do No Harm: Tread Carefully Where Oral History, Trauma, and Current Catastrophes Intersect
Jennifer Cramer

Cultivating Support while Venturing into Interviewing During COVID-19
Anna Kaplan

Socially Engaged Oral History Pedagogy Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Anna Lee and Kimberly Springer

The COVID-19 Oral History Project: Some Preliminary Notes from the Field
Jason Kelly

Journalism, COVID-19, and the Opportunity for Oral History
Evan Faulkenbury

Leading in the Time of Corona
Allison Tracy-Taylor   

Featured image: Stewart and Holmes Wholesale Drug Co. employees on 3rd Avenue during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. (University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SOC0394).