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From lockdown quizzes to accounts from the frontline: Kingston University archivists document staff and students' response to Covid-19

Posted Monday 7 June 2021

From lockdown quizzes to accounts from the frontline: Kingston University archivists document staff and students' response to Covid-19 Tuesday Tree by Marissa Collins captures the changing of the seasons during the pandemic

Kingston University has begun compiling a Covid-19 archive to document the institution's response to the pandemic for future generations – and is welcoming submissions from staff, students and members of the community.

The archive features a number of physical objects which will be  housed at the University's flagship Town House building, alongside a host of digital items relating to the shift to online working and socialising in the early months of 2020.

Homemade face mask by Irina Melvin and her mother

Kingston University archivist Dayna Miller started cataloguing content in the aftermath of the first lockdown last March. "It will be so important for historians and the general public to have a record of what happened during this unprecedented time," she said. "There has been a real mix of contributions to the archive so far with some quite poignant ones. We have seen a lot of information about the statistics and the effects of the virus, but what I'd like is for our archive to be something that reflects 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've received everything from written accounts to face masks. People even submitted the virtual quizzes they had over lockdown with their team members."

After a lengthy process Cat girl kills the coronavirus to start the archive, work took off towards the end of last year and there has been an enthusiastic response from staff as well as from students and alumni, Dayna said. "One of my favourite contributions was from a colleague whose daughter designed her own superhero – Cat Girl – who had the power to cure Covid-19," she said. "We added the design to our archive as it is a great example of how different people have coped during the pandemic."

One of the more poignant submissions to date involved the addition of items relating to the start of vaccination rollout to the archive. It came about after a Kingston University student sent her grandma a card and brooch to congratulate her on taking up the vaccine. The trend soon spread across her friends and now a card based on the original brooch design has been added to Kingston's Covid-19 archive. Another interesting piece of artistic content came from Marissa Collins, senior information adviser in Library and Learning Services based at Kingston School of Art, who took a picture of the same tree every Tuesday throughout lockdown to demonstrate how nature changed over time with the world standing still.

Cyanotype card by Daisy Bow du Toit

Other archives across the UK, such as The British Library, have also been creating Covid-19 collections. It is 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.

The archive team is still on the lookout for more submissions to document how the University community responded to Covid-19. The submissions can be physical or digital and can be as personal as the participant chooses. All contributions are welcome. The physical archive is based in the library on the second floor of the Town House building.

To find out more, contact the archive team and outline what item you would like to submit and the context behind it.

Categories: On campus, Staff, Students

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