Love NHS painting 2020. Part of the Stay Home project. Photo: Museum of the Home

New Covid-19 contemporary collecting projects launched

Rebecca Atkinson, 27.04.2020
Two London museums to invite public to document life in lockdown
Discussions about how museums can collect objects and stories during the Covid-19 pandemic are ongoing, with groups such as the Contemporary Collecting Network hosting meetings on this issue.

Last week, the Museum of London and the Museum of the Home announced separate plans to document how the virus has affected lives since the English capital had its first case of the virus in January.

The Museum of London says it will collect objects and first-hand experiences of Londoners’ live “in order to keep a record and to ensure future generations will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period”. 

It will focus on three strands: how the physical spaces in the city have been transformed; the social and working lives of the city’s residents, including key workers; and how children and young people are reacting to and coping with the changes.

“This is a major moment in the capital’s history and we want to collect a range of objects, from clothing to hairclippers, from diaries to memes that reflect the physical and emotional response of Londoners to Covid-19,” says Beatrice Behlen, the Museum of London’s senior curator.

It is inviting individuals and organisations to get in touch via social media @MuseumofLondon or email enquiry@museumoflondon.org.uk. This new collecting project forms part of its action to be the #MuseumForLondon, ahead of its relocation to West Smithfield from Barbican in 2022.

The Museum of the Home, formally known as the Geffrye Museum of the Home, has also launched a collecting project inviting the public to document their home life in lockdown.

The Stay Home project, which will have a national focus, aims to capture a broad picture of what home life looks like during the pandemic.

“The Stay Home project hopes to offer a personal, unfiltered insight into the wide spectrum of domestic life nationwide,” says Sonia Solicari, director of the Museum of the Home.

“While we are closed for a redevelopment, we want people to be part of the current discussion about what home means to them right now.”

The museum, which is due to reopen later this year, will use contributions for research, digital content and future exhibitions. This project is part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine event #MuseumFromHome on 30 April.

The Museums Associations has released a statement detailing how museums can approach contemporary collecting of Covid-19 material with “sensitivity and respect” and act in an ethical way.

“We should consider how we engage the public in any contemporary collecting of Covid-19 material in a supportive and considered way," the statement says. "We should be open about what we are collecting and why, and should consider the interpretation and care of digital items including social media posts and other material.

“We should be open about what we are doing, clear about our motivations and respectful of people's emotions and feelings. This also applies to our support for staff and volunteers.”


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