History Colorado—founded in 1879 as the State Historical Society of Colorado—offers public access to the state’s cultural and heritage resources through preservation efforts, educational programming, research services, and the maintenance of thirteen historic sites and museums. In 2020, History Colorado launched a sweeping effort to document the Colorado experience of the COVID-19 pandemic through oral histories. Project directors soon realized that the state’s Hispano, Latino, and Chicano communities, which were disproportionately impacted by the myriad effects of the pandemic, were underrepresented in their documentation. Through an NEH CARES grant, History Colorado expanded its community partnerships to reach these underrepresented communities and began collecting and preserving artwork connected with COVID-19 experiences. Through these efforts, the project developed a more inclusive COVID-19 stories collection and built the capacity of social service organizations to understand the needs of their communities through oral histories.
To incorporate artwork connected with COVID-19 experiences, History Colorado built upon their relationships with the state’s Chicano communities. Since 2015, History Colorado has worked to more fully represent Chicano history in its museums. The COVID-19 Stories initiative expanded upon this work by including a diversity of Chicano experiences. Influential Chicano artists, many well-known for their work in the Civil Rights Movement, contributed pieces. Project lead Lucha Martinez de Luna also partnered with grassroots arts organizations, where Chicano students produced pieces for preservation.
And to expand its oral history collection, History Colorado partnered with community and social service organizations, including Radio La Tricolor and El Centro Humanitario para Los Trabajadores, who were responding to the pandemic. History Colorado trained the leaders of partner organizations in oral history collection and qualitative data analysis, running ten oral history workshops throughout the state. This comprehensive approach captured the stories of hard to reach communities; additionally, it built the capacity of partner organizations to undertake community needs assessments and program evaluations through oral history collection and qualitative data analysis. Participants told project director Maria Isla-Lopez that learning these humanities research skills was the most significant leadership training opportunity they had received, and they plan to continue using the methodologies in the future