As Americans reflect on four years since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, some people are thinking about the future. Several weeks ago, Spectrum News 1 first reported about the Pandemic Journaling Project, a database of experiences during COVID-19 now posted on a Syracuse University archive. For the next 25 years, the data is only available to researchers, helping them answer questions about life during the pandemic. 

“It's a particular person's perspective, but it's all of them brought together that can give us broader insights into what this meant, how we made sense of this," said Amy Fairchild, a historian and professor at Syracuse University. 

From May 2020 to May 2022, the Pandemic Journaling Project gathered nearly 27,000 online journal entries from 55 countries. 

“I don't know of any other study of this kind," said Sebastian Karcher, the associate director of the Qualitative Data Repository at Syracuse University. 

Fairchild started analyzing the data the second she heard about it. 

“It struck me is is both very rich and very rigorous," she said. "They had people respond to a series of prompts and those prompts were thoughtful in covering a lot of aspects of the pandemic.”

What You Need To Know

  • The Pandemic Journaling Project includes written text, images and voice recordngs of people's experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • It was uploaded onto Syracuse University's Qualitative Data Repository on February 15 

  • For the next 25 years, the data is only avaliable to researchers. It will become public in 2049. 

Working on a research project centered around backlash health officials faced during the pandemic, she’s using the data to supplement answers from officials. 

“If a health official described an experience of considerable backlash," said Fairchild. "If you look at the entries in the communities in which they were operating, do you see that kind of anger being reflected? And that could give us real insight into how the politics of public health operate.” 

As researchers across the world study the COVID-19 pandemic, the data covers a wide spectrum. 

“There are so many participants that you can actually look into specific subgroups," Karcher said. "So one study has looked at the particular particular role of Black women as caregivers.”

“Five years from now, 10 years from now, another set of conflicts, another set of challenges over how we manage crises are going to arise, and that may trigger a different set of questions that we can bring back to this archive," Fairchild said. 

It's a collection of stories answering key questions for now and the future. 

“One thing has been true since the dawn of time, and that is that we are storytellers, and that's what this is," she said. "So there's something, there's something durable about what this project does.”