RRCHNM and Covid-19

Like every other organization everywhere in the world, here at RRCHNM we are feeling our way forward during this year of the Covid-19 virus. George Mason University is closed and we’ve been booted from our offices, so we have moved to 100% remote work. Between the various virtual connections we have — Basecamp, Slack, WebEx, Zoom, email, and good old-fashioned phone calls — we’ve managed to say connected and we continue to work on our many digital projects.

I would be lying if I said that this transition has been seamless or easy for us. Each of us feels the stresses of this moment in different ways and at different times — sometimes several different ways on the same day. We’re finding new locations in our homes where we can work, figuring out how to balance our own health with the needs of those we love, and trying to get used to never seeing one another except as little faces on a Brady Bunch style screen. None of us is old enough to have lived through a moment like this one, so we are creating new benchmarks on a daily basis. A few of us report being just as productive as ever, others less so.  For now, what we can do is what we can do.

We are very thankful that our various external partners have been so flexible with their expectations of us and have been willing to accept adjusted work plans and in some cases to extend funding windows. Without that flexibility, we’d really be struggling. With expectations adjusted, we are on schedule and on budget.

In addition to keeping up with our existing work, we have our own responses to the Covid crisis. The first of those is that we are in the process of standing up a new collecting history project in the vein of past projects like the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank. The “Pandemic Religion” project will collect, preserve, and contextualize the major changes happening to American religious congregations and institutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and grows out of the prior work in religious history by RRCHNM Director Lincoln Mullen and our partner in crime, Prof. John Turner from Mason’s Department of Religious Studies.

We are also pleased to be providing back end support to the Covid-19 Archive project at Arizona State University. RRCHNM is assisting this excellent project with site planning, site hosting, and general project support as it gets off the ground and we are very happy to be collaborating with Mark Tebeau and his team.

Finally, we are working hard to support K-12 and college teachers with the many educational projects we have created over the years. Making history education resources available for free to a broad audience was how RRCHNM started 25 years ago. Who knew how important that mission would be today when students can only access learning resources online?

When the new year began none of us could have predicted a moment like this. We’re happy to be doing our part to help collect and preserve the history of this moment and to help teachers, students, and parents navigate a new world of online only learning.