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New Library Exhibit Features Stories, Snapshots of Pandemic

The University Library at Cal State San Marcos will present a virtual reception for the exhibit “Stories & Snapshots: Documenting a Year of the Pandemic,” which will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 23 from 6-7 p.m. The event will feature contributions to CSUSM’s Together/Apart COVID-19 Community Memory Archive collection website. 

The “Stories & Snapshots: Documenting a Year of the Pandemic” virtual exhibit showcases participants’ personal stories through photography, writing and multimedia. It focuses on the resiliency of members of the CSUSM campus and surrounding community over the last year. By looking at the daily challenges and celebrations presented by the pandemic, the exhibit and archive are especially essential to our community this year. 

“The exhibit and archive help provide solace and connection during a time of fear and separation and allow us to reflect on our thoughts and feelings regarding the pandemic,” said Toni Olivas, CSUSM’s engagement and inclusion librarian. “Both of these projects remind us of our shared humanity and shared experiences while also highlighting the beauty in a period of extreme struggle for so many people.” 

The reception will include a panel discussion about the impact of the COVID-19 virus on our community, efforts by local cultural heritage institutions to document the pandemic, and how participants of these projects have shown profound strength in sharing their personal reflections. Panelists from the San Diego History Center and San Diego State University’s library will discuss their organizations’ pandemic memory collecting initiatives. They will be joined by members of CSUSM’s University Library Special Collections and Literature and Writing Studies departments.

“Cultural heritage institutions such as libraries, archives, historical societies and museums can play an important and active role in documenting history as it unfolds. In our profession, this is referred to as ‘rapid response collecting’ and has been used to document manmade and natural disasters in almost real time,” said Sean Visintainer, CSUSM head of Special Collections. “Due to the isolating nature of the pandemic, we thought we should put together a collecting effort that could reach out virtually to our community – the people who live, study and work in North San Diego County – and enable them to participate safely from a distance.”

The virtual exhibit is part of the library’s Context exhibit series. Created in 2004, this series has brought more than 30 instructionally related exhibits to CSUSM. Before the fall 2020 semester, Context exhibits were displayed in the gallery on the third floor of the Kellogg Library building. This is the second virtual Context exhibit, shifting to an online format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The Context library series has been supporting student learning and research through art installations for the past 17 years, and these physical and now virtual exhibits have explored a wide range of topics, including immigration, veterans, sustainability, prisons, globalization, homelessness and activism,” said Jennifer Fabbi, dean of the library.

The exhibit reception and panel discussion are free and open to the public. To RSVP, go to bit.ly/ContextEventFeb23.

For more information about the exhibit “Stories & Snapshots: Documenting a Year of the Pandemic,” contact Toni Olivas, engagement and inclusion librarian, at tolivas@csusm.edu.

For more information about the Together/Apart COVID-19 Community Memory Archive, contact Sean Visintainer, head of Special Collections, at svisintainer@csusm.edu.