Documenting COVID-19

Now, not later, is the time to think about preserving your experience of the global pandemic COVID-19.

Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts is actively collecting oral histories about this challenging period of global and American history. You have the option of recording your own oral histories–either your own experience or the experience of friends and family–or scheduling a time for AFTA’s folklorist, Virginia Siegel, to interview you (via online software).

University of Arkansas Students, Faculty, and Staff

If you are a member of the University of Arkansas family, guidelines for submission can be found here. Special Collections and Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts have partnered to preserve the personal experiences of University of Arkansas students, faculty, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Publicly released U of A wide announcements and policies are already being preserved. You can help by volunteering to participate in this project to tell personal stories. For more information on how to submit to this effort, visit the project webpage.

All Arkansas Residents

If you are not a student, faculty, or staff at the University of Arkansas, please connect with Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts directly.  If you would like to conduct an oral history yourself, you can interview a friend or family member remotely, interview someone within your household, or conduct a self-oral history and record your own answers to oral history questions.  If you are interviewing others, please practice all recommended guidelines for social distancing to keep yourself and those around you safe (CDC recommendations here).

Some general guidelines for interviews can be found at the Oral History Association.  We are also compiling advice and resources for remote interviewing that will be updated as we learn of new resources. Please use standard formats, such as mp3, wav, mp4, mov, or m4a.  You can also download AFTA’s guide that includes basic oral history interviewing techniques and sample questions:

If you would like us to interview you, we will do so using an online platform. Cisco Webex is our preferred venue, but we can work with you to find a method that works best for you. Request an interview by emailing Virginia Siegel, AFTA Coordinator, at You can also schedule online.

Please keep in mind that whichever method you prefer, we will need you and your interviewees to complete two forms to be able to archive your story.  Please fill out an Oral History Deed of Gift and a Participant Information Form and include these with your submission. The required forms are below and can be signed digitally:


Please note: donated materials will be evaluated by the Documenting COVID-19 Project Team. AFTA and Special Collections may elect to sample specific categories of materials. Certain materials for which Special Collections believes it cannot take custody due to preservation, copyright, or privacy concerns will not be retained.

Gardeners and Farmers

Alongside our general oral history project, AFTA intern, Lauren Willette, is collecting experiences of Arkansas gardeners and farmers.  Lauren is a doctoral student in the Heritage Studies program at Arkansas State University and she has developed a project titled “Coronavirus Pandemic Response: Gardening and Food Production Resourcefulness in Arkansas.”

Over the course of the summer, Lauren will be conducting interviews with Arkansans who are continuing and/or beginning a garden practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lauren is interested in interviewing folks across the state and from all of Arkansas’ geographic regions. Lauren shares,With this project, I hope to gather information about how the pandemic of 2020 has affected people’s choice to grow a garden. I would also like to learn from these people about the ways that gardening has allowed them to build community, online or out in the world.”

Due to both geographic distance and the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews can be conducted remotely. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or just getting started in response to COVID-19, Lauren would love to hear from you. You can let her know about your interest in participating by filling out this interest form: You can also reach Lauren by email directly at

Organizations and Non-Profits

Our colleagues at Local Learning Network are currently collecting data on folk arts events and fieldwork that are directly affected by COVID-19. Local Learning would specifically like to track closures and cancellations of folk arts events and/or those events where folk arts would have been presented to help articulate the national impact for folk arts in response to COVID-19 and the unprecedented challenges it raises for all our organizations and work. If your work in folk arts is being impacted and you’d like to help in this effort, please email us ( the following information:

  • Name of organizer;
  • Event name/title;
  • Location and date of event;
  • Number of artists impacted; and
  • Number of people impacted and/or expected number of audience members impacted.

More resources and updates from AFTA can be found on our COVID-19 update page.