COVID-19 Community History Project Stories

In March 2020 as the global pandemic was declared and Minnesota State University, Mankato moved to a remote learning and remote working environment, the University Archives considered how to document what was happening on campus and in the greater community.  The Archives started collecting university communications about our pandemic response and started considering ways to get personal experiences.  Many historical societies and university archives started posting on social media about their goal to collect material on the pandemic.  The University Archives at Minnesota State Mankato utilized existing oral history project expertise and working with various campus partners developed the COVID-19 Community History Project. 

To expand access and understanding about the COVID-19 Pandemic experience to current and future researchers, the University Archives began to accept donations on the COVID-19 Pandemic experience in the form of personal experiences.  Examples of these personal experiences can be in many forms from oral history interviews to self-reflections in journals or creative works such as photographs or artwork.  Many of these experiences will be made accessible through our physical collections and ARCH at a later point. 

This page contains examples of items created by students at Minnesota State University, Mankato for the COVID-19 Community History Project. Some of the students wished to remain anonymous but granted us permission to post their creative submissions. 

Photograph March 15, 2020
Joyce Aigbokhan
Aldi Store Shelves

Photograph of Aldi store shelves with limits on amounts of product they can buy

One of my visits to the grocery store, Aldi to be precise, during the early stages of the pandemic. I took a bunch of pictures but chose this picture because this says a lot.

The survivalist instinct is to stockpile goods and hoope that a decade-worth of toilet paper might spare us from what's to come.

a rainbow over a parking lot

In the mid afternoon of yesterday, I was at the balcony of my apartment sipping my drink and having a feel of the sun. The atmosphere was conducive and relaxing. while I was living in the moment and minding my business, all of a sudden the weather changed, the clouds became dark and it started raining. It rained not for long, then a rainbow appeared in the sky. I quickly took pictures of how beautiful the sky looks with the rainbow.
In my home country Ghana, a rainbow signifies hope. so when I saw it in the sky, it demonstrated that there is hope during this difficult time. I smiled believing that whatever we are going through in this tough time including COVID-19 pandemic will end soon. All we have now is hope. No matter how big COVID-19 has affected or is affecting us, we should not give up, we should keep holding on to hope, that things will get better soon.
I will encourage everyone to be strong during this hard time. Remember, no condition is permanent...... We will get through this.

Painting 6/9/2020
Jacqueline Asplund
“We can Beat this - Together”


When I first started this painting, I thought about what 2020 has symbolized for me. This time has been lonely even though we all are a part of it.  I wanted to get in as much as possible about what is going on right now to try to get future researchers an understanding of my feelings and emotions. We are not just going through a pandemic, but also a revolution of Black Lives Matter. For me, it was important to get this part into the drawing somehow since even though they are two different happenings, they are synced together and will always be in
the history books.

In the painting, one can see the main factors during this pandemic. There are empty streets, a person carrying a facemask, the dark theme, and the virus who shows taking over the city. There are tiny hints about the movement of Black Lives Matter. The skin-color of the person, the position of the person (in front of the empty streets and virus), the sign with the hashtags, and lastly the hidden message in the eyes. I do believe people will find different meanings and see more reasoning behind this painting to understand what people the year 2020 are going through-together.

“We can Beat this - Together” #COVID-19 #BLM: We are in this together, we fight together, yet so far apart, yet different paths. But we all have the same goal. To come out from this stronger, united, and with wisdom.

Cali Cantu
Cinco de Mayo: Fiesta Postponed, 2020

Drawing, "Fiesta Postponed" representing a  Cinco de Mayo festival goer wearing a mask

This drawing was especially difficult for me to construct because this drawing style is a part of my culture that I have not yet explored.  I am Mexican-American and proud of it. I’ve always strived to find ways to bring in my culture to my work and I knew I had to do this right now with everything the world is going through with this pandemic.  Many events, gatherings, and celebrations that we all look forward to have been affected by COVID-19 and Cinco de Mayo is one of them.  My family and I area finding new ways to celebrate our culture during this time and that is what inspired this piece. This fiesta may be postponed but the fiesta is still happening.

An excerpt from Eichie's reflection piece:

On the evening of May 2, 2020, I took a walk to the closest shop to my residence which is called Kwik Trip to get groceries, on reaching there, I met two of my friends, Richard and Amish who had also to come purchase items from the same shop and I walked quickly towards them. I felt a spur of happiness upon seeing them, I had put out my hand wanting to shake hands with them, accompanied by a subtle hug but Richard declined immediately saying to me “no shaking of hands till they are sanitized” and he put his hand into his pocket and brought out a bottle of hand sanitizer and asked that I open my hands for him to pour me some before he would shake my hands. I obliged him and did as he had asked, we shook hands while laughing about it and afterwards myself and Amish greeted using our elbows. We conversed for about thirteen minutes, standing six feet from each other with our face masks on all the while and afterwards I proceeded to shop at Kwik Trip for groceries and returned home.

Drawing by Minnesota State University, Mankato student Joshua Lazarus for the COVID-19 Community History Project.

Drawing of a doctor or nurse wearing a mask in front of an American flag


Steven Orvaiti
Closed Restaurants

Drawing illustration of closed restaurants

A drawing done by a student who would like to remain anonymous. The Archives strives to maintain the strictest confidentiality and will protect students and donor's privacy.Drawing representing the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic in April 2020

a drawing of a planet with a face mask and a sign with text

This drawing is a representation of the world during COVID-19 pandemic. 

On one hand, this drawing shows that the world is in a deep depression due to COVID-19.  The dark color is the symbol of the depression. The white mask and the red viruses characterize COVID-19. The world is crying and saying “Help!” because COVID-19 has killed a lot of people. Moreover, the world is going through economic and political crises due to this pandemic.  

On the other hand, this drawing shows that there is hope. The sun is a sign that there is hope. If people follow the recommended guidelines, we will be able to reduce considerably the spread of this virus. There is also hope because they are recoveries. Moreover, scientists and front-line workers are working hard to save the world.  

Poem by an anonymous international student worker on prevention and the COVID-19 Pandemic.


I met death today 

It smiled at me 

And called out for me 

It breathes in my way 

But I had a mask 


It approached me from afar 

It touched a lot of people on its way to me 

It stretched out its hand for me  

But we were six feet apart 


It managed to touch my hands  

But I washed, o I washed 

For how long I do not know. 

Till it washed off 


I finally learnt a way to defeat it 

Follow the rules and leave 

Or disobey the rules and die.