Collecting Covid-19: Preserving the memories of life in lockdown

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It’s impossible to sum up the current situation in a single word, but the one that everyone seems to keep returning to is ‘unprecedented’.

We’ve all heard that this is an “unprecedented situation” hundreds of times, but although we may all be a little fatigued with the word it’s important to recognise that we’re living through history and we should try and record as much of it as we can.

Our Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is creating an archive to capture the ‘new normal’ way of life being experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Centre is encouraging our staff and students to share examples of how their life, work and studies have changed as a result of restrictions put in place to halt the spread of the virus. The team are working to make sure that all the materials gathered show a rich and truthful picture of the University community’s experiences, whatever they may be.

Rachel Hosker, Archives Manager and Deputy Head of Special Collections, explains: “The virus is making a huge impact to the way we currently live so it is essential that we avoid gaps in our memories and experience. It’s also important that we are mindful and respectful when compiling these records. We are considering how this archive can be created safely and sensitively, but also is accurate in showing the activity taking place at the University.”

Important initiative

The project will be led by a working group comprising of members from the University’s research, medical and technical communities alongside students.

They will be examining materials like posts from the web and social media, artistic representations and personal reflections on personal circumstances over the past few months.

Rachel said: “There are many similar initiatives happening across the UK and it is really heartening to see we are actively serving society in collecting these records so that people have something to look back on in the future.”

A variety of examples from staff, students and even parents have so far been submitted to the archive, including experiences teaching remotely, lockdown life in halls of residence, and studying from home.

As with other collections archived by the Centre, the ‘Collecting Covid-19’ initiative will be digitally available to the public as and when submissions have been reviewed and catalogued.

Rachel added: “We aren’t setting a deadline for the archive to be completed as often you will receive records months – even years – down the line, once people have had a chance to reflect.”

Documenting crisis

This project is not the first time the Centre has recorded a time of crisis, with many collections showcasing the changes endured by the University community throughout history.

Archives include records of how the Spanish flu impacted University life for students and staff, fundraising activities during the First World War, and photographs documenting student life during the Second World War.

Rachel said: “The University has been collecting archives since it started, and these reflect and document changes to the University and its people. It is however important to remember that each of these crises are not comparable to what we are experiencing now.”

Getting involved

To enquire about sharing or adding to this collection please contact

All records and items will be considered and appraised by the Collecting Covid-19 team.

Collecting Covid-19 Initiative

Centre for Research Collections