January 2022 Chronicling COVID-19: Capturing the Pandemic Experience in Vermont
This Winter Term 2022 course is project-based at its core. We will study a few natural disasters/public health crises in Vermont’s history and connect what we have learned about those community responses to the study of Vermonters’ responses to COVID. Our project will center on conducting oral history interviews of community members from Addison County, Vermont and contextualizing those interviews into the larger community story.
I need to find Addison County residents who are willing to be interviewed about their own pandemic experience as well as how they have come to understand the COVID response on the state and local level. It makes sense to include some local officials, those who had a strong hand in dealing with massive shutdowns or broad pivoting to alternate operations. It would also be good to have interviews with everyday folks, Vermonters just trying to live their lives and also watching their neighbors react to these strange and scary circumstances.
I would be well-versed in these historical crises, in the background knowledge that would serve as a base for the oral history interviews, and in historical research methods. I would also train the students (along with Rebekah Irwin) to conduct proper oral history interviews.
The students would have studied Vermont community responses to crises such as the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, the Flood of 1927, and 1918 influenza, and what we know of COVID’s history so far. They will be informed and sensitive to the impacts that disasters such as these have on communities and even to people’s notion of community.
The students will also have been trained in conducting oral history interviews, which I hope they will approach with enthusiasm and sensitivity.
I aim for students to research the experiences of Addison County residents through oral history so that they:
-come to see their Vermont surroundings in a more informed, more complex, and perhaps a different way.
-identify the range of community stressors that develop in the midst of crises and to be able to study patterns of this phenomena across time (for example, how do Vermonters remember the community response to Irene compared to COVID?).
-understand the value of historical sources as well as their limitations and the challenges they pose to researchers.
-understand the importance of human connection, the give and take between two people in a conversation, the power of listening and also asking open-ended questions.
-appreciate the process of working in a team on an endeavor that is larger than they, alone, are.