Chicago Archives in the Time of Covid: North American Province of the Cenacle

15 Dec 2020 10:49 AM | Doris Cardenas (Administrator)

Please enjoy this week's story which was submitted by Jerice Barrios from the North American Province of the Cenacle. 


Quarantine began for me at 2pm on March 17, 2020. As soon as I received the go-ahead from my supervisor, I packed up my laptop and files, got on the train, and headed home. During the three-month mandatory lockdown, my primary emotion was gratitude. I was grateful to be in profession where working from home was an option. I was grateful to the Cenacle Sisters for considering the Archives an essential service. I was also grateful to my family who supported me, giving me an “office space” and weaving their lives around my schedule.  

I had never really worked from home before, so I needed all the help I could get. In the first weeks, I learned just how much self-discipline it takes to log eight hours of work when all you really want to do is stay in bed reading the latest coronavirus news on your phone. My love/hate relationship with Zoom meetings began during this time: yes, a Zoom meeting is better than nothing, but I definitely get tired of only seeing people through little electronic boxes.

Baby Yoda was my work from home desk mascot.

When lockdown restrictions lifted in June, my assistant and I were informed that we were expected to return to the office. For the most part, I was glad to be able to get out of the house and back to some semblance of “normal,” even though I was very aware that the coronavirus was still out there, and still as dangerous as ever. Also at that time, the political situation in Chicago was volatile. Our planned June 1 return to the office had to be postponed for a week because our downtown building was boarded up due to the riots in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Working in the Loop is a stark reminder that we are living in a very specific cultural and economic moment. With so many office workers absent, downtown businesses and restaurants are shutting down. Some may return, some may not. Uncertainty is the mood of the times. With COVID-19 cases increasing again, we may be headed for a second mandatory lockdown, but in the face of the unknown, I believe more than ever in the importance of archivists as the keepers of the historical record. History gives me hope: Chicago has survived disasters before, and we will survive COVID-19 as well.

Closed and boarded up restaurants are becoming a common sight in downtown Chicago.


  • 18 Dec 2020 9:23 AM | Frank Villella
    "Chicago has survived disasters before, and we will survive COVID-19 as well." Amen!
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  • 18 Dec 2020 1:54 PM | Anonymous
    Something is missing in Jerice's account. From the beginning of the lock down through October, she volunteered to help Chicago Area Archivists manage its finances. She had been the outgoing treasurer during the prior CAA Steering Committee term, and she graciously--and cheerfully--kept managing the bank account even though she didn't have to.

    Because of the lock down, the Steering Committee wasn't able to add our new treasurer onto the CAA bank account. And even after many of the restrictions were lifted, bureaucratic hurdles prevented us from adding the new treasurer until October or so. That means Jerice continued to help us out for about a half-year AFTER her service with Steering was finished.

    We all appreciate Jerice's help, and the help of the awesome volunteers who have kept Chicago Area Archivists afloat and active during this trying time.

    Dan Harper, chair, CAA Steering Committee
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