Christopher Tharp, a doctoral candidate in political science and
international relations from Wilmington, Delaware, wants to better
understand how people are navigating the COVID-19 information flow.
“I am particularly interested in how people are sorting through all
of the information concerning the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tharp said. “Where
are people turning for guidance to make decisions?”
The oral history component of the study will complement other rapid
response efforts taking place across the country, according to Valerie
Marlowe, the center’s assistant director of archives and collections.
"These first-person accounts of disasters have long been a valuable
source of information,” Marlowe said. “Oral histories, more than written
records, bring the human experience to life, preserving the voices and
experiences of people who have lived through historically significant
As the oldest center in the world focused on the social and
management aspects of disaster, the Disaster Research Center has
undertaken quick-response field studies for decades — from the Good
Friday earthquake in Alaska in 1964, to 9/11, the Tohoku Triple Disaster
in Japan, Hurricane Harvey and many others.
Such studies yield results. The center’s work after 9/11 revealed the
importance of improvisation and adaptation during a crisis. Fieldwork
after Hurricane Sandy contributed to a method for measuring potential
recovery trajectories in disaster-ravaged counties.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Disaster Research Center has been
sharing information with response agencies and the public from its
extensive E.L. Quarantelli Resource Collection via Twitter
(@elq_resource) and other avenues. The center’s alumni also are
directly involved in local, county and state agencies, as well as
private and non-profit organizations on the front lines.
Now, the center’s lens is focused on its own community.
"The experience of those in Delaware and surrounding communities is
critical to understanding this event and doing a better job preparing,
responding and supporting people should this happen again,” Wachtendorf
To sign up to be interviewed, visit this website, which is available in both English and Spanish. For more information, contact Wachtendorf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Tracey Bryant; photos by iStock and courtesy of Virginia Berndt and Christopher Tharp
May 5, 2020