The Library of Congress has acquired audio diaries featuring more than 200 frontline healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19, a collection that provides first-hand testimonies from hospitals and communities across the country as the public health crisis unfolded. The audio library was donated by The Nocturnists, a San Francisco-based independent medical storytelling community and podcast.
The majority of the recordings were originally collected for the “Stories from a Pandemic” series in the spring of 2020, of which only a small fraction was published on the podcast and accompanying online story map. The gift also includes the pandemic-related material from The Nocturnists’ “Black Voices in Healthcare” series, which was recently selected as a podcast honoree in the 2021 Webby Awards.
Additionally, the group plans to donate recordings collected for the follow-up series, “Stories from a Pandemic: Part 2”, launching today on The Nocturnists podcast.
The Nocturnists’ collection is full of intimate, real-time stories from medical practitioners at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, confronting the human toll on their patients, themselves and their communities. You hear the sounds of the workplace, the exhaustion in their voices, and the big and small ways they try to cope and contribute; it’s really a remarkable gift,” said Elizabeth Peterson, director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
The American Folklife Center, which will house and preserve this digital archive, has been collecting oral histories from different groups and communities since 1976. The collections include interviews with civil rights leaders, as well as first-hand accounts from 9/11 first responders, survivors from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and war veterans since World War I.
Prior to receiving the gift from The Nocturnists, the Library of Congress started building new collections within the last year to document the global COVID-19 pandemic through photographs, posters, public health data, and artists’ responses to the health crisis.