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Students Find Ways To Bring History To Life Amidst COVID-19 Lockdown

Collage of historical buildings and a deed in New York.

Amidst the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world has had to adapt to changes in our everyday lives. In terms of the higher education landscape, SUNY has been hard at work helping students adjust to remote instruction, whether it be providing laptops to students in need or campuses hosting online learning training sessions. Throughout it all, SUNY students have remained determined to complete their coursework, internships, and other forms of hands-on learning experiences, and have shown their creativity and flexibility during the pandemic. In particular, a group of SUNY New Paltz students have become pioneers in a sense in documenting in real-time how COVID-19 has affected specific organizations and employees throughout New York State.

Each semester, students in SUNY New Paltz’s Department of History’s capstone “Community, Memory, and Historical Practice” fieldwork and seminar course blog about their experiences working at regional historical sites.

In spring 2020, that assignment has produced an unexpected historical record: A series of real-time, first-person writings on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted a variety of historical organizations and the people who staff them.

The last two months of publications on the History Internships blog have seen students pivoting from sharing interesting stories and findings from their fieldwork, to describing the process of adapting their internships on the fly in the wake of stay-at-home orders.

Some students were fortunate to be able to continue working at projects begun before the pandemic. Clara Zonis ’22 (History) wrote that her transcription of historical documents for the Kingston Almshouse would not be interrupted by the move to remote work.

Other students needed to find new ways to contribute. Alexa Walker ’20 (History), interning at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, shifted to helping produce daily blog posts and a new, online exhibition.

Kristen Thompson ’21 (History) assumed a more documentary approach, writing about how D&H Canal Historical Society made clever use of social media to remain accessible to hikers and history lovers in their community.

Members of our community can read these blogs and more from spring 2020 history student interns at, and visit the Department of History online to learn more about their courses and regional partnerships.

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Written by Julie Maio

Julie is the assistant director for student mental health and wellness for SUNY System Administration.

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