Covid-19 response

Preserving the memories of life in lockdown

An archive is being created to capture the ‘new normal’ way of life being experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With societies across the world experiencing new ways of living, the Centre for Research Collections will document the impact the pandemic has had on the University community.

The Centre is encouraging staff and students to share examples of how their life, work and studies have changed as a result of restrictions put in place to halt the spread of the virus.

The materials gathered aim to create a full and accurate picture of the University community’s experiences.

Rachel Hosker is Archives Manager and Deputy Head of Special Collections: “The virus is making a huge impact to the way we currently live so it is essential that we avoid gaps in our memories and experience. It’s also important that we are mindful and respectful when compiling these records. We are considering how this archive can be created safely and sensitively, but also is accurate in showing the activity taking place at the University.”

Important initiative

The project will be led by a working group comprising of members from the University’s research, medical and technical communities and students.

Examples of materials in scope include posts from the web and social media, artistic representations and personal reflections.

Rachel said: “There are many similar initiatives happening across the UK and it is really heartening to see we are actively serving society in collecting these records so that people have something to look back on in the future.”

A variety of examples from staff, students and even parents have so far been submitted to the archive, including experiences teaching remotely, lockdown life in halls of residence, and studying from home.

As with other collections archived by the Centre, the ‘Collecting Covid-19’ initiative will be digitally available to the public as and when submissions have been reviewed and catalogued.

Rachel added: “We aren’t setting a deadline for the archive to be completed as often you will receive records months – even years – down the line, once people have had a chance to reflect.” 

Documenting times of crisis

An entry from a friendship book written by Janet Murray, a Moray House student, during the First World War
An entry from a friendship book written by Janet Murray, a Moray House student, during the First World War: “We cannot see the pattern our lives are meaning - we can only go on bit by bit, remembering that there is a pattern - and that one day we shall understand why all the dark patches and bright glad colours were sent us.”

The ‘Collecting Covid-19’ initiative is not the first time the Centre has recorded a time of crisis, with many collections showing the changes endured by the University community throughout history.

Archives include records of how the Spanish flu impacted University life for students and staff, fundraising activities during the First World War, and photographs documenting student life during the Second World War.

Rachel said: “The University has been collecting archives since it started, and these reflect and document changes to the University and its people. It is however important to remember that each of these crises are not comparable to what we are experiencing now.”

Historical archives

The Centre for Research Collections holds some of the world’s most important archives and manuscript collections.

It is at the heart of the University’s cultural and historical collections and is the only place in the UK where researchers can access material from across all collection types.

Rachel said: “The collections are not just about archiving records, but so they can be used for reflection and current thinking. They document the changes the University has experienced, where research interests are now, where they were 10 years ago and where they’ll be in the future. They are an important part of what we offer to our community and to the wider public.”

Getting involved

To enquire about sharing or adding to this collection please contact: crc-duty-archivist@ed.ac.uk.

All records and items will be considered and appraised by the Collecting COVID-19 team.

Related links

Collecting Covid-19 Initiative

Centre for Research Collections