How will museums of tomorrow tell the Covid pandemic story?

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Covid’s arrival in early 2020 threw organisations and businesses into turmoil. But while most workers grappled with furlough, social distancing and working from home, a small band of museum officers sensed history was in the making. This is one museum service’s story of trying to collect items in real-time to capture the pandemic story for future generations.

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  • Norfolk Museums was one of a number of local authority services which responded to my request under the Freedom of Information Act about Covid-related acquisitions during the pandemic. Some services collected very little. Colchester Museums, for example, acquired just one item - a medical scrubs bag, while West Northamptonshire Council accessioned six items including a pair of nurses shoes and a social distancing sticker. Norfolk Museums, however, collected a vast trove of items ranging from digital photographs, to personal written testimonies, to physical objects such as signs, clothing and equipment.
  • "When we first got sent home I think we thought it would be two or three weeks and then we would go back to the office," says collections officer Wayne Kett. The penny then dropped. History was in the making and it needed to be preserved. "It was really important to capture that information while it was happening to people and while people were experiencing it - there's a lot of value to that," Mr Kett said.