Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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“I recommend it to the Charity of all good People to look back, and reflect duly upon the Terrors of the Time.”
– Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, 1722.

In January 2020, two award-winning history professors set out to track the medical and media phenomena surrounding the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China. What started as a side-project quickly became an all-consuming, effort  to make sense of a global pandemic. Based on extensive research, contributions from a national team of experts, dozens of interviews, and hundreds of collected stories, Drs. Margaret Peacock and Erik L. Peterson set out to examine the intersecting crises that plagued the nation. They revealed a health structure rooted in a culture of acute care that was hobbled by entrenched racial hierarchies, lasting economic disparity, and a willful historical amnesia. These factors more than anything else led to the pandemics of disease, disinformation, poverty, and violence that caused such unimaginable catastrophe.

This digital museum accompanies Peacock and Peterson’s book, A Deeper Sickness: Journal of America in the Pandemic Year (Boston MA: Beacon Press), 2022.

The DAILY ENTRIES   in this site allow you to explore the sources that Peacock and Peterson used to write the book. It offers up an extraordinary amount of bonus material– sources, data, interview transcripts, submitted stories, and analysis– that could not fit into the printed manuscript.

In the STORIES section of this site, you can read the personal narratives and memories of people from across the country. The hope is that the site will encourage us to consider and understand the many perspectives of Americans as they lived through this crisis.

In the EXHIBITS section of this site are housed peer-reviewed articles from scholars around the country, creative works submitted by renowned artists, and meritorious undergraduate research projects — all of them dedicated to the study of the pandemic year.

Memory fades. Alongside the book, this site is an attempt to keep that memory raw. You might disagree with our analyses of these events. We encourage you to examine the sources for yourself. There are certain realities about this year that should not be forgotten. Americans, as we found, too often substitute folklore for history.

Deeper Sickness Book Cover

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BROWSE SOURCES AND BONUS MATERIAL BY DATE (Currently, dates covered here correspond with dates discussed in the book. All dates in 2020 will eventually be included). You can also use the date navigation tool at the top of the page to browse dates: