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  • Kathleen Comerford

The beat goes on (doesn't it?)

There is much talk of a COVID pause, and I want to address that here. When I planned for this semester back in the BC (before Coronavirus) days, I envisioned a continuation of the usual things, like the database I've created, the Digital Commons uploading, Instagramming, etc. Then I learned I wouldn't have an undergraduate intern in either the summer or fall. Then I did get a summer intern after all, and she was terrific. I'm enormously grateful for the work that Sadie Ingram did; the Digital Commons repertory is nearly complete.

Unfortunately, I still wasn't able to get an intern for the fall. Worse still, I have not secured funding for a research assistant. Rachel Oliver's work in the spring and summer remains incomplete--and to my great disappointment, we were not given an opportunity to present it at the undergraduate research symposium, which was just cancelled instead of rescheduled--and my application for a fall assistantship was rejected.

On top of that, the extra work associated with the teaching "pivot"--first switching to a fully online platform to complete the spring semester, second to taking a series of workshops and classes to learn how to teach online because the future is uncertain, and third to a semester in which I am introducing a new course and converting a familiar one to reach students who attend infrequently, because our classrooms are not large enough to hold the full class at once--has left me with little chance of maintaining an energetic research schedule. Two conferences which I had planned to attend were cancelled, which in some ways is a relief: I can't imagine where I would have had the time to write the papers for the sessions.

The result of all of this is that it's only now that I realize I have not updated the "About Us" page until today; I have promised more than I have delivered regarding the printers; and I haven't updated the database file in ages. It hasn't felt like much of a pause, to be honest. Between the stresses of daily living during a pandemic and the added difficulties associated with limited access to research materials, I haven't made much real progress.

On the other hand, I have been able to move forward in ways that are pretty specific to the extravaganza which is 2020. Over the years, I collected an embarrassingly large number of unread scholarship via ILL and other downloads. I amassed a significant number of digital photographs of archival documents in 2019, which I had not processed yet, and was able to purchase (with the generous help of my department) some more from an archive which is difficult to access under the best of circumstances. I also have some notes and photos from a 2016 trip which I started using shortly after but did not fully exploit, and can now return to. This all is quite a silver lining. My projects can indeed go ahead, albeit slowly, but thoughtfully--and in ways which I intended them to go ahead when I started saving those articles, dissertations, and documents.

This doesn't replace new travel, or the excitement of the intellectual exchange at conferences, but it's something to hold on to--maybe even celebrate. It's allowed me, for example, to refine my thinking on some issues, and it's keeping me from going crazy in isolation. And that in itself is good news.

I hope you find similar silver linings, and that you don't forget about this project. I can't promise when I'll be ready to post the newest version of the database or to fill out the printers page, but I can promise that I will indeed do it.

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Note: this was originally posted on May 11, 2020, on the "old blog" site--an error I have only just discovered today (10/7/2020). Another note: while I have updated the "About Us" page, I have not ye

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