“Picturing the Pandemic” opens Providence Exhibition

March 14, 2023

This month marks the official opening of "Picturing the Pandemic: Images from the Pandemic Journaling Project,” an interactive photo exhibition displayed at Brown University and the Providence Public Library. Created by the Pandemic Journaling Project (PJP) in collaboration with Seeing Truth: Art, Science, Museums, and Making Knowledge, the Providence Public Library, Rhode Island Historical Society, and the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, this novel exhibition features reflections from everyday individuals as they experienced the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in real time. 

Created in May 2020 by PSTC anthropologist Kate Mason and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut Sarah Willen, the Pandemic Journaling Project seeks to democratize the historical archive by inviting everyday individuals from around the world to document their daily lives through written, audio, and visual reflections. 

During the Project’s successful first phase (PJP-1), over 1,800 people in 55 countries contributed nearly 27,000 individual journal entries to the Project's collection. In March 2022, the Project then launched its second phase of archival activism (PJP-2), giving rise to several targeted research initiatives and spin-off projects, including the first Picturing the Pandemic exhibition which opened at the Hartford Public Library in fall 2022. 

The primary installation at the Providence Public Library features images submitted to the Providence Journaling Project from May 2020 to March 2022. However, the exhibition also invites members of the public to contribute their own visual materials to the PJP and Rhode Island Covid-19 Archive, a collaboration between the Providence Public Library and the Rhode Island Historical Society. 

“The goal is really to encourage visitors to step back and sit for a moment with what happened in the last three years,” says Kate Mason. “The world changed so much, and so profoundly, and while I think a lot of us are deeply relieved that things are ‘back to normal’ more or less, we can't erase those experiences.”

Additional materials will also be on display at various locations across the Brown University campus. Specifically, an auxiliary display at the Stephen Robert Campus Center will highlight the origins and goals of the Pandemic Journaling Project, while displays at the Swearer Center for Public Service and at the Population Studies and Training Center will analyze the pandemic’s large-scale mental health and population impacts respectively. In addition to these Providence-based displays, the Project will also soon open new installations in Heidelberg, Germany and Mexico City, Mexico. 

“The exhibition shows some of the ways that ordinary people saw their world during this time, and encourages visitors to reflect and add their own voices too,” says Mason. “My hope for the future of PJP is that we will continue to find new and exciting ways to use this platform to understand and preserve people's stories – especially those whose voices are not often recorded in the historical record.”

“Time to Get Jabbed.” Image contributed to the Pandemic Journaling Project by journaler Kathy Brew via Picturingthepandemic.org.