Documenting contemporary regional history: The Utah COVID-19 digital collection


COVID-19, pandemic, digital collections, born-digital, photographs, stories, oral histories, crowdsourced, collecting in times of crisis



When faced with events, such as the global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), libraries have a unique opportunity to develop a community facing response through born-digital collections. These collections provide challenges for metadata creation, collection development policies, workflows, and digital preservation. This paper aims to provide an overview of the Utah COVID-19 digital collection, with a discussion of impact and lessons learned.


This paper provides a case study of a born-digital collection initiative undertaken at the University of Utah in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project prompted engagement with the University of Utah communities and people across the state. Workflows, metadata management and partnerships are discussed, to provide a model for institutions developing similar projects during a time of crisis.


While the project was launched with open-ended and flexible goals, the response from the community has been both surprising and gratifying. Statistics and examples demonstrating reuse of collection materials are provided to highlight the impact and potential of community engagement.


Digital collecting projects during a historical event are not new, however the restrictions placed upon people worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic created interesting circumstances for building this collection. Several lessons were learned throughout the project which will be useful for other institutions embarking upon related projects.

Original Publication Citation

Neatrour, A., Myntti, J., Wittmann, R. (2020) “Documenting contemporary regional history: The Utah COVID-19 digital collection.” Digital Library Perspectives, 36(4), 403-414. doi:10.1108/DLP-04- 2020-0025 Preprint:

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Emerald Publishing Limited




Harold B. Lee Library

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor