The Museum of the Home’s vision is to reveal and rethink the ways we live in order to live better together. We wanted to put this into practice when the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and so we embarked upon the Stay Home project.
During these extraordinary times, our homes have never been more important. Stay Home is a rapid response digital collecting project, started in direct response to the coronavirus lockdown. We sought to document how coronavirus has changed the way we live, and to explore the uncertain future of home life.
Since April 2020, people from across the country have contributed nearly 400 submissions. Through these questionnaires, photographs, oral recordings and diaries, we have been recording the varied and changing impact of coronavirus on homes. People have responded candidly, revealing their struggles and the ways they have adapted to the "new normal".
My sofa is now the shape of me, as if we are merging into one. The silence is deafening.
They have shared how they have learned new skills, made new connections, but also struggled with the isolation and economic hardships caused by the pandemic. The project has given us an insight into the role of home during the pandemic – how it has been a sanctuary for some and a prison for others.
As we move the project forward, building long-lasting and meaningful relationships with participants is crucial. We want to ensure that they feel that they have been involved in something relevant and useful. Meg, a participant said: “I’ve lived in Dalston for more than a decade so having to do something with your museum means a lot to me! I’m so proud of myself to do something meaningful!”
Life has been turned on its head by the pandemic and lockdown. Our home has now turned into the multi-functional centre of our lives. We work, cook, exercise, play, hang out with friends and relatives (virtually) all in the same space. Our relationships have got stronger. We have had time to spend properly with one another without rushing off here and there.
We will continue to collect material as long as restrictions are still in place, and are now tailoring the questionnaire to reach particular groups. We have recently launched a student-specific strand to capture the experiences of those in higher education whose home lives and education have been disrupted by the pandemic.
The next stage of the project is to work with an artist to respond to the material we have collected to create a dynamic artwork which will encourage conversation and debate around compassionate ways of living in a post-pandemic world.
Stay Home is helping the museum to achieve our purpose to be a living, breathing resource that responds, adapts and reflects the changing ways that society, communities and individuals are relating to home in the broadest sense of the word.
Almost a year on from the initial lockdown, as we navigate what the “new normal” looks and feels like, Stay Home will allow us to be reactive to the changing needs of our visitors, participants and immediate community.
Danielle Patten is the curator (research) at the Museum of the Home in Hoxton, East London