COVID-19 Journal Project | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

COVID-19 Journal Project

Collecting History as it Happens

COVID-19 Journal Project | Wisconsin Historical Society

Return to BIG History Is Happening

Banner depicting three individuals writing to get you excited about participating in the journaling project!

Collecting History As It Happens

In 1861, Wisconsin Historical Society founder Lyman Draper asked soldiers stationed at Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin to help document the Civil War by keeping a diary. After the war, those diaries were mailed back to the Society, where today they are regarded as one of the most valuable collections in the Society’s archives.

This simple act of recording daily thoughts not only documented the events of the war but provided an intimate and captivating window into the experience as it was happening. Today, more than 150 years later, people from all over the world use these journals to understand the impact of the Civil War on the local community, the state, and the world.

You Can Be a Part of History

Now it's your turn to record history as its happening. The Society is actively documenting the impact of COVID-19 on Wisconsin and the world. Our tradition of balancing the collection of artifacts and material with personal experiences is a critical part of this process.  Just like the soldiers in 1861, it is your documentation of your experience living during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine that will allow the Society to share history with people living 100 years from now.

Every story is important. The Society is seeking individuals and organizations from all walks of life, different backgrounds and cultures.  Perspectives from a retired couple or school-aged child are just as important as those from front-line health care workers. Teachers or supervisors could also make this an engaging group project!

Ready to Donate Your Journal?

Once you have completed your journal and are ready to donate it to the Society archives please fill out the journal deed and read the instructions on how to donate.

Journal Deed Donation Instructions

By agreeing to donate your COVID-19 journal, it is understood that the purpose and intent of the gift is to transfer and assign all rights, title, and interest in the journal that you possess to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The Historical Society may make discretionary use of the donated materials to include, but not limited to, exhibition, display, publication, digitization for preservation and access purposes, and making materials available for research and scholarship. The Historical Society reserves the right to decline any submission inappropriate for the project.



Writer’s block? Here are some tips for journaling the pandemic:

How do you express your thoughts? Pick the journal format that works best for you.  If not a written journal, maybe it is a daily audio recording or photo project.

Include your personal reactions to the following types of situations:
  • Working from home
  • Changes to your routine tasks, such as grocery shopping
  • The news media reports
  • Your own illness or that of a family member
Include what you have been doing to pass the time at home:
  • What did you do to stay in good spirits while in quarantine?
  • What is your favorite music, movie or television program to stream during a pandemic?
  • How did you interact with others without putting them or yourself at risk?
  • If you have chosen to ignore the guidelines, what is that like?
Include thoughts about other specific situations during the pandemic:
  • What have you struggled with during quarantine?
  • If you are a medical care worker, what is it like?
  • If you own or manage a business, how did the pandemic impact you?
  • If you had to continue working on-site at your job, what changes did you have to make to your workday?
  • If you became unemployed, how are you dealing with it?
  • How was the pandemic presented to your children?
  • How did your children react to being out of school?
  • How will you celebrate the holidays? Does it look different?

COVID-19 Writing Prompts


Share on social media like this young lady is about your experiences with COVID-19

Share With Us!

1. Download this Sign

2. Answer the question...

"I’m participating in the COVID-19 Journal Project because..."

3. Snap a photo of yourself with your sign!

4. Post on Facebook or Instagram!

5. Tag the Wisconsin Historical Society & use #BIGHistoryIsHappening  



We will be sharing some of these photos in our social media and e-newsletter 


A special Thank you to Greater Madison Writing Project for being a great partner and supporting this project.