The 2020 (Re)Collection

Image: Workers place a mask on the figure of the Fallas festival in Valencia on Wednesday March 11, 2020. Photo: AP Photo/Alberto Saiz.

In March 2020, most of the world experienced a kind of stasis. In North America, restaurants and stores were shut, public spaces were closed, and people stopped visiting each other. Many of us got used to a new rhythm of life, in lockdown. Today, a year after the declaration of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we – a group of graduate students and scholars – decided that it was appropriate to revisit the lives and memories of different people so we could re-collect a year in the life of a global pandemic through oral history.

2020 shifted the way we see the world – from the very global to the very local. Our bedrooms, roommates, and pets became our worlds; and we saw mundane, everyday things in new ways. This project is an attempt to document the pandemic through oral history. Some of the individuals interviewed are close to us, some are strangers, some are colleagues. They all have important, funny, sometimes sad stories to share. They shed light on the small, yet poignant ways our lives have changed over the past year.

The 2020 (Re) Collection Project is the result of 14 student projects at the School of Information at the University of British Columbia for the course, “The Theory and Practice of Oral History.” Each year, this course asks students to plan and create an oral history exhibit. This year, the shared experience of the pandemic could not be ignored. The context within which we were all working and teaching – primarily over Zoom calls – meant that the interviews also took place over Zoom. Sound quality suffered. These limitations are front and centre, but they are also an important part of the larger story of (Re) Collecting 2020.

We encourage listeners and viewers to watch and hear the shared, but often vastly different, experiences of the pandemic. Each narrator speaks on one of five themes: Essential Work; At Home in 2020; Youth and Activism; Food as Resistance; and Performing in Lockdown. These themes occasionally connect and intersect, and shed light on the lived experience and shared history of the unofficial weirdest, hardest, year.