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Picturing the pandemic: Public helps museums record how coronavirus has affected us

PUBLISHED: 15:05 20 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:29 21 September 2020

Various Covid-19-related items. Pic: Museum of Norwich.

Various Covid-19-related items. Pic: Museum of Norwich.

Museum Of Norwich

The remarkable response of people in Norwich to the coronavirus pandemic has been captured for posterity, through hundreds of photographs and objects which will tell the story to future generations.

Signs outside a house on The Avenues, offered  by Natalie Marcantonio and family. Pic: Museum of Norwich.Signs outside a house on The Avenues, offered by Natalie Marcantonio and family. Pic: Museum of Norwich.

The public has donated masks, scrubs, Clap for Carers signs, posters and more than 200 photographs to Norfolk Museums Service as part of the Picturing the Pandemic project.

Curators at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, Strangers’ Hall and Norwich Castle Study Centre wanted to make sure the social history story connected to coronavirus is recorded.

They ran a public campaign to collect objects, photographs, ephemera and stories to reflect the impact of the pandemic on local lives.

People were quick to respond, offering donations of all sorts of objects, ranging from scrubs made by volunteers at Norfolk Scrubs, through rainbow signs made by children to a cut-out Dominic Cummings mask.

‘Stay Safe Norwich’ print, by Norwich artist Owen Mathers. Pic: Owen Mathers‘Stay Safe Norwich’ print, by Norwich artist Owen Mathers. Pic: Owen Mathers

They also shared their stories of what is was like home working, while juggling the demands of schooling children at home and coping with shielding vulnerable family members.

Businesses donated masks and visors, with Jarrold, Kettle Foods and Bread Source offering up food parcels, hand sanitiser and shop signs.

Hannah Henderson, curator of community history, said she was aware that creating a collection connected to coronavirus might be seen as “a bit weird”.

But she explained: “As social historians, we were keen to capture what was going on. We felt a real responsibility that we were living through a really important moment and that we needed to capture what it meant.

Scrubs made by Jo Woods, Norfolk Scrubs volunteer. Pic: Jo Woods.Scrubs made by Jo Woods, Norfolk Scrubs volunteer. Pic: Jo Woods.

“So we launched the Picturing the Pandemic campaign to engage with the public and get a sense of what was going on. We found people doing really interesting things - volunteers who were doing fantastic things and businesses which had changed overnight to try to help.

“It was a ray of sunshine during lockdown and we were so thrilled to hear so many wonderful stories.”

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The idea is that an online exhibition can be created, with the possibility of a physical exhibition at an appropriate point in the future, so generations to come can discover the Norwich stories which unfolded.

Masks created as a fundraiser for Norwich Puppet Theatre, offered by Susie Hanna. (Pic: Norwich Puppet Theatre)Masks created as a fundraiser for Norwich Puppet Theatre, offered by Susie Hanna. (Pic: Norwich Puppet Theatre)

Candid About Covid

People in Great Yarmouth are now being invited to contribute to a similar project being run at the Time and Tide Museum.

The museum is launching Candid About Covid, appealing for donations of photographs, objects and personal experiences centred around the pandemic.

Photo of sign displayed in window of Franks Bar, Bedford Street, by Norwich photographer Jess Sayer. Pic: Jess Sayer.Photo of sign displayed in window of Franks Bar, Bedford Street, by Norwich photographer Jess Sayer. Pic: Jess Sayer.

The campaign will run from today (Monday, September 21) to Friday, October 9, and anyone who lives or works in Great Yarmouth is encouraged to take part.

The museum’s goal is to collect a digital archive showing how people and communities in Great Yarmouth experienced the Coronavirus pandemic.

Curator Wayne Kett said it was essential for the museum to reflect this historic moment.

He said: “Contemporary collecting is important for any museum, but when we are living through such extraordinary times it becomes vital.

Train for Life’ T shirt, offered by personal trainer Daddy Kabuiku and his class members. Pic: Daddy Kabuiku.Train for Life’ T shirt, offered by personal trainer Daddy Kabuiku and his class members. Pic: Daddy Kabuiku.

“This project will ensure Time and Tide Museum has properly recorded how the pandemic has impacted the lives of people living and working in Great Yarmouth.

“It will enable us to engage with the public about the pandemic in the present, but perhaps more importantly, it will help to ensure that future generations are able to learn about the coronavirus crisis and how it impacted Great Yarmouth.”

People and families can submit their experiences via www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/5LIGCL and businesses and organisations via www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/2PEGRH.

People can also use the museum’s social media accounts, or via yarmouth.museums@norfolk.gov.uk


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