When COVID shutdowns started, Dr. Schlect reached out to the Smithsonian museum to submit a history project his students were working on. The project, Dr. Schlect informed his students, was to:
“Imagine you work for the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. Your supervisor has determined that the current COVID-19 pandemic is an important part of our nation’s history, and thus, images related to the pandemic should be collected for preservation. You have been sent into the field to collect those images…”
The Smithsonian was already working on chronicling the COVID-19 pandemic. Their goals were to:
“[work] with photographers across the country to acquire and share the everyday reality of living during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first set of multiple pandemic-related digital acquisitions has recently been acquired for the permanent collection.”
The photographs submitted by the New Saint Andrews students are now officially part of the Smithsonian collection—they are documented American history. Dr. Schlect congratulated his students later in a letter:
“I am writing to thank you all again for your willing cooperation as we worked with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. I am happy to report that your images now reside in the national collection. The curator of the museum’s Photograph History Collection mentioned to me that she recently used one of our images in a presentation to the Smithsonian National Board. She added that other curators are starting to use images from the collection as well. They are now working to make the images more widely available.
“One thing history teaches us is that trials bring people together. The pandemic shutdown in the spring of 2020 was indeed a trial. And when things got hard, you all displayed fortitude, and cheerfully so. Many classes have come and gone over the years, but I will certainly remember you all. I put it this way in the collection notes: ‘We all appreciate history better when we see ourselves as having a part in it. In April of 2020, my students at New Saint Andrews College became the subjects of their own history field trip, and in so doing they assumed for themselves a permanent place in American history.’”
You can see the Smithsonian press release here.
(How to navigate the Smithsonian press release: From the link to the press release, navigate to the embedded dropbox. There you see some of the images collected by NSA students and others.
Also in the dropbox, note the folder called “Captions and Project Statements,” where you can read more about the photos. There you will also see Dr. Schlect’s “project statement,” where he explains how a class project at NSA ended up in the Smithsonian. The images you see are those that go along with the Smithsonian’s press release. They represent only a sample; in all, 83 image files from New Saint Andrews College are now part of the national collection. These files include photos taken by our students together with the documentation they prepared.)