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Presented By: Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

CREES Noon Lecture. Curating Covid: Material and Visual Cultures of the Pandemic

Alexandra Arkhipova, Sara Blair, Sarah Gensburger, and Alexandra Lord

Curating COVID Curating COVID
Curating COVID
While there is so far no known cure for Covid and the disease continues to kill thousands daily around the globe, humanity has spent the better part of this year attempting to make do – some by doing their best to protect themselves and their loved ones as they continue to perform the work essential to their survival or deemed essential by society; others, by sheltering in place, reducing the radius of our daily activities, developing new routines. How will we know and remember all this? Who is the chronicler of Covid, who are its curators? What will be the sources, not of the political histories and for future medical research, but for narrating the pandemic as experience, for explaining its everyday reality to future generations?

This panel of brief presentations aims to prompt our collective thinking about a Covid archive, and how it will be constructed. Presenters from different disciplines and national backgrounds will be asked to share images or objects that bring our pandemic present into focus and allow us to explore together questions for the future: who is collecting what? What are the objects in which our daily experience materializes, and which might speak to the future? Where and how does the pandemic leave its traces in our visual cultures, and (how) do these differ depending on national contexts? The virus itself knows no borders, but can we discern transnational and global patterns in our responses in an increasingly fractured world?


Alexandra Arkhipova is senior research fellow and head of the Contemporary Folklore Monitoring Research Group at the School of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow, Russia. She is also a professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities and the Russian School of Economics. She is a leading expert on political jokes, rumors, and legends, on the concept of money in traditional society, and on the folklore of protest. Her research group is currently engaged in a multi-year study of “infodemia,” the World Health Organization’s term for the spate of false and potentially dangerous misinformation that flows through and infects the public discourse much like a viral pandemic. Dr. Arkhipova’s book Dangerous Soviet Things: Urban Legends and Fear in the USSR, written with Anna Kirzyuk, won the Liberal Mission Foundation’s 2020 Prize for the best analysis of current events.

Sara Blair is Patricia S. Yaeger Collegiate Professor of English at the University of Michigan. Her publications include How the Other Half Looks: The Lower East Side and the Afterlives of Images; Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century; Remaking Reality: U.S. Documentary Culture after 1945, co-edited with Joseph Entin and Franny Nudelman; and Trauma and Documentary Photography of the FSA, co-authored with Eric Rosenberg. She has collaborated with curators at the DIA, the International Center of Photography, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, served as consultant to a range of photographic projects and exhibitions, and curated exhibitions at U-M’s Institute for the Humanities and the Middlebury Art Museum. Her current work focuses on the lives of the image as material object and aesthetic form from the advent of photography through the digital era.

Sarah Gensburger is a research professor in social sciences at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Working at the intersection of memory studies, public policies analysis and micro-history of the Holocaust, she is the author of eight books. The most recent ones are Memory on my doorstep. Chronicles of the Bataclan Beighborhood (Paris, 2015-2016); and Beyond Memory. Can we really learn from the past? (co-written with S. Lefranc). For some time now, she has also been developing public history and sociology projects such as the podcast collection "It Happened Here." Starting in April 2020, Gensburger developed the collaborative project "#Windows in Lockdown" in collaboration with Marta Severo, professor of media studies, University Paris Nanterre.

Alexandra M. Lord is chair of the Medicine and Science Division at the National Museum of American History and a curator of the history of medicine. She received her A.B. from Vassar College and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is the recipient of various fellowships, including most recently a Fulbright Fellowship, as well as awards for her book, Condom Nation: The US Government’s Sex Education Campaign from World War I to the Internet. She has spoken on the history of medicine in venues ranging from the History Channel to academic conferences, Planned Parenthood, and The PBS Newshour. Between 2016 and 2018, she was president of the National Council on Public History, the nation’s largest public history organization. Currently, she serves on the executive committee of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Landmarks Committee of the National Park Service.

Registration is required for this Zoom webinar at

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.

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December 2, 2020 (Wednesday) 12:00pm
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