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Hertsmere museums unveil campaign highlighting local COVID-19 life stories

Picture: Hertsmere Borough Council.

Museums within the borough of Hertsmere are hoping to gather objects and first-hand experiences, which can provide an insight into people’s lives during the pandemic. The new #CollectingCOVID campaign aims ‘to document and record this time,’ ensuring ‘future generations’ will have the opportunity ‘to learn about… this extraordinary period.’

Coronavirus has brought about many changes for local residents, since the initial lockdown began almost one year ago. A 'new normal' quickly followed, which created ‘a huge shift’ within ‘our social and working lives.’ Many organisations had to close and we also saw the introduction of restrictions, altering ‘people's movements’ right ‘across the country.’

The museums are therefore keen to gather photographs, journals, letters or items which depict the borough’s pandemic story. In particular:

• How the physical spaces in Hertsmere have been transformed – from bustling town centres to deserted streets, socially distanced gatherings, queues, empty shelves.

• The effects on key and home workers – clothing, stories and experiences, homemade facemasks, letters, cards, journals.

• How children and young people are reacting to and coping with the changes, now that many schools are closed – examples of home learning, games played, posters and pictures, diaries, coloured pebbles, chalk drawings on pavements.

Curators from four museums want to collect both physical and digital objects, which reflect ‘the voices and experiences of residents from across the borough.’ Moreover, the intention is to obtain items from individuals who ‘can tell the story of Hertsmere in lockdown.’  This includes ’those working on the front line,’ or ‘quietly in the background.’ Through to ‘parents turned home-school support,’ and ‘young people online gaming.’

Councillor Caroline Clapper, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, said:

“Hertsmere, like the rest of England, is in our second lockdown and we are all finding new ways to cope with the altered way of life the pandemic has imposed. During the first lockdown we created things quickly and for short-term use, which tend to be thrown away and rarely retained. The paper NHS rainbows put in windows may be a child’s drawing, but in a century, it could be an important record of a life-defining moment in time. This time we may have been more prepared with small office areas at home, online learning or new ways of keeping in touch with loved ones, but there is still a story to tell. We want to hear about how you are coping, what tools and techniques you are using to work and stay connected, how your home has adapted, as well as the ways you are protecting you and your families mental health.”

She continued:

“This is a major moment in our social history and our museums want to collect a range of objects, from clothing to hair clippers, from diaries to memes that reflect the physical and emotional response of the borough’s residents to COVID-19. Our museums strive to tell the story of their towns and its people. It is imperative to capture this time for future generations, to help us understand how this city dealt with an extraordinary situation. Remember, it’s not just old things the museums collect. As the situation with coronavirus continues to unfold, if you have any items you think might be of interest to reflect this time in our history, please keep them aside for our museums to consider.”

Pictures, posters, stories and information on items individuals may be willing to donate can be emailed to:

• Bushey Museum and Art Gallery: busmt@busheymuseum.org (FAO Tony Woollard)

• Elstree and Borehamwood Museum: info@elstree-museum.org.uk  

• Potters Bar Museumpottersbarmuseum@gmail.com  

• Radlett and District Museum: info@radlettmuseum.com

Additionally, journals recording life throughout the pandemic can be anonymous, and there will also be an embargo period.

For further information on the campaign, contact the Heritage and Museums Officer on: ruth.stratton@hertsmere.gov.uk or visit: www.hertsmere.gov.uk/collectingcovid

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