Naperville Journals

Please help us to tell the story of this national emergency, now and far into the future. We are encouraging all Naperville residents to journal this moment. Journals can be elaborate or very simple. They can be jotted on post-its or in a notebook or bound book. Our effort is to capture how we are all experiencing this moment in time.  Your journal, sharing the good moments and the bad, will become part of the legacy of this historic time.

Information about when and where you can submit your journal to the Naper Settlement Archive will be announced at a future date. If you have an online journal, photos, or videos documenting your experience, and would like to donate them to the Naper Settlement  Archive,  please click here to upload and donate.

Merle Clarke’s Journal from the 1918 Pandemic

Naper Settlement’s archives includes the diary of 11-year-old Merle Clarke, who shares her family’s struggle with the 1918 influenza pandemic. In her diary, she writes that on Sunday, October 27 “Papa came down with the flu.” On October 29, Merle also comes down with the flu and is cared for by a nurse. On November 11, she writes of the “great world War" being over.  The following day she shares that the nurse goes home and her father returned to work on November 13.  

Digital Lesson Plan for Students

Visit our digital lessons plan page to view a newly released video and curriculum on how students can learn from Merle Clark’s journal to create their own journal about their experiences today. 


Naper Settlement’s Curator of Research, Andrea Field, has some advice based on her own experiences of journaling during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

1. Determine what will be helpful to you now

I write every day, so a diary was comfortable for me. If writing isn’t for you, consider another format. Draw.  Make YouTube videos. Record your music. There is no limit to how you can record your life and this moment in time. Get something out of this project right now by doing what you love.  

2. Get started

As your first entry consider writing about who you are. Write about the basics—your name, age, where you live, other people in your family or house, your school or work, and any additional information about you. This will give later researchers who might find your journal an idea about what your life was like before and what types of changes to it you are writing about.

3. Capture your life now 

Don’t worry if you don’t have any grand theories or that you will sound silly. Take a peek at Merle Clarke’s journal. It only took one sentence a day to capture what her family was going through. Capture your life as it is now. Some posts might just be lists of things you did while others will focus on what you are feeling in the moment.

4. Make it an every day commitment

Set aside ten minutes each day to capture your day. Use sentence prompts (“Today I felt…”, “Today I experienced…) to get start if you are blocked. Try to write every day but be patient with yourself if you miss a day or two. 

5. Kids can do this, too

Children offer important perspectives to our understanding of historical events. If your child is very young, they can draw a picture or paste a clipping. Click here to find a newly released video about how kids can journal during the pandemic.

6. Consider gifting your journal to Naper Settlement

The end of the quarantine and bans on public gatherings is just the beginning of our experience with this pandemic. Naper Settlement wants to preserve the experience of this entire historical event. We need as many voices as possible, especially yours!