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Covid-19 historic archive to preserve experiences of Kingston University community for future generations

Posted Monday 14 December 2020

Covid-19 historic archive to preserve experiences of Kingston University community for future generations Tuesday Tree by Marissa Collins captures the changing of the seasons during the pandemic

Kingston University's archive is creating a special collection about the Covid-19 pandemic to record the personal experiences of students and staff during the unprecedented period. The archive of written testimonies and artefacts will be preserved as part of the University's 120-year history.

Archivists are inviting submissions of creative writing, artworks, videos or photographs to create a new collection reflecting the University's response to Covid-19 and the effect the pandemic has had on individuals' lives.

It will form part of the diverse range of archives and special collections, based at the University's flagship Town House building, that support the teaching and research activities of the University and wider Kingston community.

University archivist Dayna Miller said the idea came about during the first UK nationwide lockdown in March, when she decided the archives should reflect what was happening locally. "I thought it would be timely if we could enhance our current history collection with people's experience of the pandemic and of lockdown," she said.

"We see a lot about the statistics and the effect of the virus, but what I'd like is for our archive to reflect the human impact and how our students and staff have dealt with it. Healthcare students and staff have been working on the frontline, people have been working from home, or home schooling their children unexpectedly.

"We want to have a collection that documents this period so, if a researcher comes to our archives in 20 years' time and wants to know what the University's response was to Covid-19, they get as detailed an understanding as possible about what we have all been living through," she added.

Submissions have already started to be received, ranging from a homemade mask and a reflective written account of lockdown to a collection of images, including a photograph of a work-station set up at home and an online book club.

Some illustrate the creativity that has flourished during lockdown, such as a succession of images called the Tuesday Tree. The tree was photographed every week by Marissa Collins, senior information adviser in Library and Learning Services at Kingston School of Art, and captures the changing of the seasons during the pandemic, when time seemed to stand still for many.

"This pandemic will hopefully be a once in a lifetime experience. We're keen that people who visit our archives in the future are able to see what the human response was during this time and it will tell them something about the University as a community," Miss Miller said.

"Even having a series of homemade masks reveals how people engaged and tried to combat the virus in the only way they could without a vaccine," she added.

The archivists are welcoming stories and artefacts that are simple or humorous, as well as ones that are more reflective and personal. "We find that people who visit the collections really want to get to know the people whose materials we hold. Through their personal items you can tell a lot about them.

"It really brings out a human side to the archive where it's not just documents that are remote and used for very highly academic research, there's a personal touch to everything," Miss Miller said.

Other archives across the UK, such as The British Library, are also creating Covid-19 collections. It's hoped the Kingston University collection will not only help to document this period in history, but also give participants an opportunity to express their feelings about the challenges they have had to overcome.



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