Final Reflection: Preservation Research in a COVID-19 Landscape
By: Anna Tiburzi
All good things must come to an end, and so, unfortunately, we’ve come to a close on my position. That being said, I’d like to reflect a little on my experience this summer working in a COVID-19 environment.
In a way, this project has been very similar to my work last year on the Liberty Island project, where I also spent a majority of my time working out of my own home and communicating remotely with the rest of the Liberty Team. It’s also not my first experience having to adapt to a COVID-19 work environment, as SUNY ESF has been operating on a distance learning basis since March. Therefore, I’m not unfamiliar with the challenges presented by social-distancing and the adaptation required for success under these circumstances.
However, just because it is familiar, does not mean it comes easily. Working like this means being largely self-directed, with minimal oversight and only virtual guidance. Communication and file swapping with teams and mentors is largely limited to what can be dropped in online cloud storage and what you can show by sharing your screen in a video chat. This method of communication feels much less efficient, though it’s become an invaluable resource during a time of relative isolation.
Our knowledge of technology, our familiarity with the programs, and – almost more importantly – our knowledge of what is possible within the realm of technology and the ability to teach ourselves using online platforms, is an immeasurable strength and one that I have relied on immensely throughout my life and increasingly since quarantine began. I’m also thankful that I feel comfortable and confident enough to say that I have this to my advantage, since I know there are those that technology comes less easily to, those that lack access to resources, those who haven’t had the option to safely work from home, and those that have additional commitments and responsibilities that have made this transition more difficult. Therefore, while I am glad to have been able to overcome my own challenges during this period, I’m also aware of the privilege inherent in being able to say just that.
Working from home has brought its own challenges, as many others know themselves. Much of this project is reliant upon archival research and physical trips to archives, which is exceptionally difficult during this time when we have to be so very cognizant of our own health and the risks associated with in-person interactions.
Additionally, many of the archives that we may have used for the project are also currently closed to the public, forcing us to get more creative with what we can get from digital collections, reaching out to sources over email, and searching online. Many of these digital collections, while still yielding a wealth of material, are incomplete, which means that future trips to the physical archives will be necessary at a later date.
All this being said, this has been such a rewarding experience. The project itself has kept me immersed daily, with new material to read, people to reach out to, tasks to accomplish, and questions to answer every day. Like I mentioned in my first post, research has always been a passion of mine and something I’ve enjoyed throughout my academic career. Returning to the Olmsted Center this summer in this capacity has been such a delight and a great opportunity to hone my skills in research, writing, project organization, and communication.
With all this in mind, I’d like to thank my mentors at SUNY ESF and at the Olmsted Center, and my contacts at ACE, who have been so instrumental in making sure that I, along with the other associates, had whatever resources and support they could give in order to make our projects a success. Projects like this are truly a collaborative effort and it’s not without the dedication, passion, and patience of many that this experience has both been so fruitful and enjoyable.
So with that, I sign off on my last blog post for this project! Thank you to all who’ve taken the time to read this, or any other of my posts, as well as those who I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the course of the summer.
Thank you all!