#COVIDStories: Creating Primary Sources for the Future
The lesson packet above includes activities, examples, and worksheet.
Lesson Plan Text
To learn about history, we look to the records created by the people who were there. We might look at photographs, read a diary or some letters, or listen to a recording of someone speaking. These are all primary sources! When we look at primary sources, we are hearing a real person telling their story in their own way. Often, these materials weren’t made with the intention of telling a story way in the future--they were just made. And somehow, they were kept by someone who cared about them, and then donated to an archive or library because they were from a time that ended up being important or described a person or event that became important.
Consider the time we live in now--do you think that in 10, or 20, or 50 years people will want to know more about today? In this lesson, students will make their own primary source--in the form of a social media post documenting a feeling or aspect of their own life during the COVID pandemic.
Step 1: Making (or Faking) a Social Media Post
Have your students make (or fake) a social media post on an aspect of their life during COVID.
A fake could be a photograph with some text, a short video, or audio recording--students can be as creative as they want! Students can also create a drawing, comic, or journal entry offline.
Some ideas for students:
- Show how your space or your daily routine looks different.
- Describe a COVID-era pet peeve.
- Share something you love, something that makes you laugh, or something that gets you through a hard day.
For more inspiration, check out our list of Prompts to Inspire Your Words and Images
Ask students to document their social media post so that they have a single image, audio, or video file to share.
If students have created their post on an app like Instagram or TikTok, they can take a screenshot of their image or a screen recording of their video. If they have created something physical, like a drawing, they can photograph or scan their creation.
Step 2: Describing and Submitting the Post
Have your students fill out the #COVIDStories Metadata Worksheet. The metadata describes what their post is and what it is all about. Students should include any hashtags that they would use when posting their image, audio, or video on social media.
Students can refer to this example of an Instagram post included in a Maine Contemporary Archives collection: Rainy Day Deliveries.Submit posts to your local or regional COVID-19 community archive. (Use this list to find a participating library near you.) Each project has its own Terms and Conditions for contributions; get in touch if you have any questions! Make sure to have the metadata on hand. You’ll need to enter it when submitting the items.
Ask students to reflect on these questions:
- Do you think the way historians or researchers interpret primary sources is always correct, or do you think there is a chance they confuse or don’t understand the meaning?
- Do you think the metadata archivists ask for when you donate something to an archive will help people in the future to correctly understand its meaning?
- Do you think it will be harder or easier for archives, libraries and museums to save primary sources that are born digital, like most of the stuff we create today? Why do you think that?
- How long do you think this post would last “in the wild”? Would you expect it to last very long, or want it to last?
- How do you feel about people looking at and studying your thoughts and feelings, in 10, 20, 50 or 100 years from now? Is it weird or cool?