Library of Congress Acquires Digital Archive of Frontline Workers

June 10, 2021 by TWN Staff
The Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Library of Congress has acquired a digital archive of the real-time impressions of more than 200 frontline health care workers documenting the country in crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

The audio diaries from health care workers were collected by The Nocturnists, a medical storytelling project, for its “Stories from a Pandemic” podcast series, which ran in spring 2020.

The collection contains more than 700 audio clips documenting the chaotic conditions in overwhelmed hospitals as medical workers struggled with their own stress, exhaustion and grief.

The digital archive will be housed in the library’s American Folklife Center, which has been building up a collection of oral histories dating back to World War I.

Folklife Center Director Elizabeth Peterson called the collection “really a remarkable gift” and said the audio medium and the intensity of the environment create a deeply intimate and sometimes exhausting portrait.

“You hear the sounds of the workplace, the exhaustion in their voices, and the big and small ways they try to cope and contribute,” she said.

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.

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