Pandemic Journaling Project Captures the Complex Story of Life Amid COVID-19

The co-founders of the Pandemic Journaling Project discuss the deeper value of archiving our collective feelings around this unprecedented time.

Understanding feelings of sadness and grief caused by the pandemic is an ongoing struggle for many of us. After almost a year of “pandemic life,” everything feels very different than it was in the “before time.” 

The Pandemic Journaling Project was founded to capture all of the emotions encompassed in living through the past year. People all around the world can write, record or photograph their accounts of life amid a pandemic. Thousands of entries have already been made, creating a community of unified expression. 

“We want to make sure that anyone can make this space theirs and create their own record.”– Sarah Willen, co-founder of The Pandemic Journaling Project

The project isn’t just to help people cope with their feelings amid the pandemic. In the future, the public’s journal entries will be used as first-hand historical accounts of current events. These will be studied as accurate representations of the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the project’s founders.

Listen: Anthropologists Sarah Willen and Kate Mason discuss the importance of preserving our pandemic stories.


Sarah Willen is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut and co-founder of the Pandemic Journaling Project. She says the project serves to collect experiences and help people understand the world we’re living in right now. “We’re really interested in people… we’re trained as medical anthropologists. As the pandemic was beginning, each of us was thinking about how we could use our training to make sense of what we’re all going through.”

The Pandemic Journaling Project is for everyone to share their stories, and ensure the history books will include all narratives, “We want to make sure that anyone can make this space theirs and create their own record,” she says. On top of collecting historical accounts, Willen says the project is for people to use for their own benefit too. “We want this to help people cope and manage… in whatever way feels right to them,” she says.

Kate Mason is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University and co-founder of the Pandemic Journaling Project. She says there are reoccurring themes in the journal entries, including rage, guilt, anger and gratitude. “(People) are just reflecting on things that they haven’t had time to reflect on before,” she says. Concern for the future is another commonly shared idea. “With everything that’s happened this year many people are feeling afraid about the future and whether anything will ever be normal again,” says Mason.

She adds that the project will continue to collect stories until the pandemic has ended, “Our plan is that for the next 25 years we’ll study the material collected from (The Pandemic Journaling Project) and it will be released as a public historic archive.” 

Web story written by Nora Rhein. 

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