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Beyond Better: Experiences of Recovery, Disability, and Politics in Pandemics

Project creators


Jessica Martucci

Jessica Martucci, PhD, MBE
Research Associate
Columbia University


Britt Dahlberg, PhD
Associated Faculty
Johns Hopkins University

About the project

Beyond Better proposes a social media curation of a digital public history and artistic collaboration meant to provoke and inform public discourse around the experience of “recovery” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using oral history and digital archival research, and in conjunction with the artistic vision of two solicited artists with disabilities, we will collect and curate stories of survival from the current COVID-19 pandemic and juxtapose them with stories of survival from the mid-twentieth century polio epidemic in the U.S. 

Beyond Better will use public history and Instagram to help inform contemporary public discourse around the ongoing pandemic which thus far has been measured primarily in terms of positive viral and antibody test results, deaths, hospitalizations, and recoveries. Instead, we seek to direct attention to the far more complex experiential aspects of “cure” and “recovery.” 

Using the analytical lens of disability history as a way to move beyond the dichotomy of sick/well, the project will curate a series of individual stories and artistic interpretations that capture the historical continuities and departures that characterize the experience of epidemic disease in the minutes, days, weeks, months, and years after they touch people’s lives. It draws attention to the ways in which the afterlife of an epidemic disease continues to shape life in both intimate and very public ways, from the level of the individual, to the community, to society at large. 


The Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest
St. Augustine Center, Room 410
Villanova University
Villanova, PA 19085

Media inquiries:

Please contact the Villanova University media relations department.