The Quarantine Question

How has the past year's quarantine affected your professional life?

COVID-19 came on the heels of a successful cancer surgery, the lead-up to which made me question whether I could carry on a professional life. For me, getting back into the classroom, even virtually, became my priority. The online shift required creative thinking about pedagogy, and it was as time-consuming as it was fulfilling. I happened to be in the home stretch of completing a book and so could focus on final edits and other small tasks when time allowed. I spent summer 2020 collecting images and publication rights from institutions that were sometimes closed and always short staffed. The dedication of the many people with whom I interacted reinforced my appreciation of the academic support systems on which art and architectural historians rely. As it turns out, I was also scheduled to go up for promotion in my department, and when things felt impossible, I relied on the wisdom of a senior colleague and listened to her subtle words of encouragement to move the dossier forward. That support, the kindness of curators and photo-reproduction experts, the enthusiasm of undergraduates and graduate students through four quarters of teaching during COVID-19—all of these things reminded me of the importance of relationships in my profession. As we all move forward professionally, I hope that our shared experience of plague will remind us to acknowledge, value, and celebrate the people with whom we share our time.

JESÚS ESCOBAR, architectural historian and professor, Northwestern University