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NYS Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections: COVID-19 Personal History Initiative

We are living through a momentous time.

Although we are all being asked to do the same things - maintain social distance, stay in our homes, support essential workers, etc. - each of us feels the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic in unique ways.

The experiences of all New Yorkers, from Long Island to Plattsburgh and from Albany to Buffalo, make up the foundation of our state's history. To record and preserve the unprecedented, historical events unfolding around us currently, Manuscripts and Special Collections (MSC) encourages all New Yorkers to keep a journal documenting what their daily lives are like during the pandemic. The challenges you're facing; the obstacles you're having to overcome; and the creative ways you've found to connect with family, friends, and your community are all experiences to think on and write down.

MSC asks that you consider donating your journal at a future date to the New York State Library. We'll preserve the journals for future generations to study and learn from.

MSC also plans to record interviews with New Yorkers interested in sharing their story this way. Interviews will be conducted by phone until the crisis has passed and public meetings are once again safe. These oral histories will be preserved in the New York State Library's collection and will also prove to be a valuable resource for future study.


journal, open to a blank page, with a pen atop it

Does journaling mean writing in a blank diary? Not necessarily! You can use a diary like the one pictured if that's your style, but that's by no means the only way to capture your thoughts, feelings, and experiences about COVID-19.

  • Print: If you want to stick with paper as a medium, you can write in a notebook or on loose paper or, if you prefer to type your thoughts or reflections, you might consider typing on a typewriter if you happen to own one. See our list of Journaling Prompts for topic ideas. 

  • Digital: You could keep a digital journal, using Microsoft Word or another text program and saving it on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone; alternatively, you could consider keeping an online journal, which can be done on your device with a connection to the internet. This 2013 article has advice about keeping a secure online journal, and its recommendations are still relevant today.

  • Audio: You can also keep an audio journal, recording your thoughts rather than writing them down. For advice on that practice, visit this site, Guide to Keeping an Online Journal, or check out this article on The Art of Audio Journaling.

  • Photography: One way to document your COVID-19 experiences is with images rather than (or in addition to) words. For tips and ideas on how to approach using photographs to tell a story see our Photo Journaling page with images taken by our New York State Library staff during their quarantine experience.

Whatever kind of journal you keep, the important thing is to document what is happening in your life right now. As time passes, our memories tend to soften. Days and events blend together; recollections change. It's important to record this history now so future generations have a clear picture of what New Yorkers are going through today.

We invite you to visit the new home for this project:

NY Covid-19 Personal History Initiative
Last Updated: June 30, 2021