How do you study a global pandemic as it unfolds? What impact does social distancing have on people's jobs and daily lives? What strategies do people use to remain connected when public health requires social distance? And what are the communities of care and love people develop and mobilize in the face of loss, grief and fear?  Bridging the Distance is a project that explores these questions in this uncertain moment of Coronavirus and COVID-19. 

In March 2020, students enrolled in the Comparative American Studies course, "Latina/o/x Oral History" shifted their analtycial focus from community-based research supporting local efforts in the city of Lorain, Ohio documenting the history of Latinas/os in the community to using the tools of oral history and archival research to document, collect, and preserve a diverse range of experiences in the United States, Puerto Rico and Peru. 

Oral history is a valuable tool in bridging distance temporally (hearing stories of our past can bring us closer to understanding our families and communities and ultimately ourselves) in a contemporary moment in which social distancing increasingly defines our daily interactions with each other. Oral history is also a powerful tool for capturing how people responded and adapted to uncertain times. By conducting oral histories of family and friends focused on their experiences in this moment of crisis, this project seeks to create bridges connecting us to the experiences of others, past and present, and offer a space of reflection.

In addition to oral history, Bridging the Distance also seeks to document the many ways people actively make connections with others, understanding that an ethic of care and love inspires creative uses of social media, memes, visual art, poetry, music,  humor, other kinds of connections with each other.  This project reflects students' efforts to collect and display examples of people bridging and connecting in the context of social distancing and help to create an archive of the myriad strategies of care and connection and love in this moment of uncertainty.