Creating Heritage: A diary during Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part Seven

Over the last year, I have had numerous requests from my team for me to write my ‘Talking Heritage’ blog, and unfortunately I have told them that I was too busy each time. Now, following a week that is sure to go down in history, I have stopped and taken the time to reflect.

My job at Canterbury Museums and Galleries is to preserve our City’s heritage and culture, making sure it is relevant and engaging to all. We spend time thinking about what and how we ‘collect’ objects that help uncover our history and tell our story, as well as which we might dispose of, so that we can make room for the new. 

In this time of uncertainty and unorthodox decisions, I have decided that instead of choosing an item to talk about from our collection that I will start a new collection. From today, Saturday 21st March 2020, we will document the everyday lives of our community as we pass through this point in time.

Michelle Moubarak, Museums and Cultural Programme Director

Day 43: Saturday 2 May

Today was a sad day. We have received news that one of our regular visitors has passed away, our thoughts are with their family.

Day 44: Sunday 3 May

The current situation in the world right now may be boring and annoying for some people, but it has given me a chance to focus on my university work. Today, as per every other day, I have spent the majority of the day working on my essay about Henry III of England and the demands for reform he was faced with in 1258 and 1263.

Apart from completing my essay, I usually start my day with some breakfast and a workout. I also had to attend an online meeting for my work to discuss the new procedures that will be implemented when we eventually all return to work.

Towards the end of the afternoon, I normally take a walk along the beach in front of my house and watch the sunset across the water. I then cook dinner for myself and mum and we sit in front of the tv watching series like; Killing Eve or The Last Kingdom. I usually end my day by laying in bed reading a book or calling my boyfriend.

By Amber Etherington, Collections Volunteer

Laptop on top of bed covers

Day 45: Monday 4 May

My grandad, who I was very close to, passed away at the beginning of April. I was also mid way through writing my art history dissertation and a philosophy project when this happened. Though this felt like awful timing, I have been slowly finding joy in small things around me. I stayed up until after midnight finishing a wonderful book. I also painted some plain boxes pink to make gift boxes that I can use for presents for upcoming friends’ birthdays, and I went on a walk in a forest nearby and where I saw a sea of bluebells blooming.

Grief is difficult to navigate but I have found that it is still possible to still find joy in the everyday. On one day for instance, I looked out of the window and saw cherry blossoms floating through the breeze, on another day a friend gave me a bag of gifts which included a really lovely letter, two books and bath oils. I have found it very soothing to turn to self care rituals and TV shows (I would recommend Afterlife!) to help ease anxiety and grief throughout this turbulent time.

I have been self isolating for such a long period of time now that I finally feel I have adjusted to it more, and in some ways it has become quite nice. Some positives I have found in the pandemic are finding the time to get back into cooking, finding I have more inspiration for writing, writing letters by hand to friends, binging TV series and not feeling guilty about it and wearing pyjamas everyday.

By Zoe Ito, Collections Volunteer

Woodland with bluebells

Day 46: Tuesday 5 May

Today the UK has the third highest death toll in the world while we continue the uphill challenge of combating the virus.

As a pensioner with an underlying respiratory condition, my wife Kathy and I have self-isolated for nine weeks now, predating the official lockdown.

In the microcosm of my personal world, the weeks have merged into what seems like one continuous day, lifted by video calls with our sons. Local suppliers like Canterbury’s Goods Shed have delivered food. Ingredients arrive and meals are meticulously planned as if we’re a small ship at sea, sailing from one food delivery to the next. I’m expanding my cooking repertoire while Kathy has become an expert at sourdough baking.

During my career as a photographer, I travelled the globe, from the Polar Regions to the tropics, striving to capture the essence of our natural world. Now the furthest I can go is a half an hour there and half an hour back, powered only by my muscles.

I’m privileged to walk in the Garden of England. It’s enlightening because I am seeing so much more than ever before. With every step, I’m mindful of the significance of each breath I take. Today I’ll make my newly foraged bunch of wild garlic into a risotto with own-grown asparagus. In culinary terms, I’m focussed on all that is primarily local. I may have retracted into an insulated environment, but it’s opened my mind to the richness of my immediate surroundings and the fragility of life.

By Steve Bloom, Photographer

Woodland with wild garlic flowers

Day 47: Wednesday 6 May

In a strange way the lockdown has not changed my life all that much! 

I take Fred (Irish Terrier) for an early morning walk in the woods or along a coastal path every morning, which I have continued doing during Lockdown. I work from home anyway and have been making a large mosaic in my workshop. Fundamentally there is no real change, apart from it being a little weird outside! Oh and my wife is working from home now so I get text messages asking for cups of tea which never used to happen before. 

However, clearly I am not travelling anywhere delivering workshops, attending meetings or making anything on site. Today for example I would have been constructing a ‘giant’ out of cardboard with pupils at Newington Primary School in Ramsgate. This temporary giant installation would have been the focus of an ‘opening event’ unveiling a series of new artworks in a wooded copse adjacent to the school. 

The mosaic is made to cover a brutal concrete bench outside the community centre in Newington and forms part of the series of new artworks I mentioned. The theme for the mosaic bench is ‘Emergency Vehicles’ and residents of Newington have spent several weeks making individual ambulances, police cars, fire engines and air ambulances (helicopters). The theme was their idea, a tongue in cheek reflection about their own neighborhood where a drama is always unfolding and a siren going. I have spent my time fitting it all together and filling the spaces between each vehicle.

By Rob Turner, Artist in Residence on the Creative Newington Project

Mosaics of different public service vehicles

Day 48: Thursday 7 May

As circumstances have drawn in my horizons, I, like many others, have started a list of birds seen or heard in or over our garden. Many have been seen through the window during a Zoom meeting or heard whilst taking our dog out before bed. Some are like friends; the Blackbird who lost her mate to a Sparrowhawk a few weeks ago and one of her chicks to a Magpie today, and the seven pairs of House Sparrows who are eating me out of house and home. Others slip through barely noticed: Firecrest, Sand martin, Whitethroat, Common Tern and Yellow Wagtail. 13 Red Kites, including 1 as I write this, and at least 25 Buzzards have passed through and, rarest of all, a Black Kite from Southern or Eastern Europe on the 16th April. Friends along the coast alert me to raptors that are coming my way and we now know that it is thirteen minutes from Broomfield to Whitstable as the Kite flies. Nocturnal migrants identified by call, in some cases heading to places I will probably never visit, have included Avocet, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Redwing and Moorhen; a feature of early mornings recently are the mewing calls of Mediterranean Gulls heading out to feed from their Medway colony.

I am re-reading ‘The Redstart’ by John Buxton, the data for which was collected while he was in a German POW camp, and I am constantly reminded of the words of Neil Ansell from ‘Deep Country, Five Years In The Welsh Hills’: ‘Sometimes it felt as though I didn’t need to go anywhere else, that if I just waited here patiently, every wild creature there was to be seen in mid-Wales would come and visit me’. The Swifts arrived in Whitstable on 29th April and as Ted Hughes said ‘They’ve made it again, Which means the globe’s still working‘. Lockdown and look up.

By Andy Malone, Programme Director Further Education, UCA 

Back garden in the sun

Day 49: Friday 8 May

My working from home routine has established itself now and today started in the usual order of eating breakfast in the sunniest chair and reading the latest ‘Navigating with Kindness’. At People United we have a daily video check-in and start with a non-work-related chat. Today we shared memories of our favourite childhood jackets and discovered that we each had a shared fondness for brightly coloured items! After catching up on the tasks for the day we wished each other a nice day and got to work.  

In the afternoon I spoke to one of our associate artists Nova Marshall on zoom, we talked about the submissions received for Kind Canterbury and how she might take them forward to create a collaborative digital artwork. We noticed that lots of the stories collected were about volunteering, donating, sharing, gratefulness and care across Canterbury, Herne Bay, Whitstable and the nearby rural areas. Many of the artworks sent to us included bright colours, rainbows and boldly painted messages.  I’m really excited to see what Nova takes from it all and how she might highlight some of the themes that really celebrate Canterbury as a kind place. We’ll be sharing the artwork online and then later, when The Beaney opens, it will be part of the Museum of You exhibition.  

In the evening I hosted an online pub quiz for my family, I put up a green screen (a fleece blanket) and set the background to an image of our local pub. For a few moments I was able to fool my Dad and that felt good, he is usually the practical joker and so it felt like a great achievement to make him laugh. Each couple hosted a round and I do not think anyone scored double figures!  

By Becky Vincer, Creative Programmes Coordinator, People United

Stone with 'I miss the pub' written on it

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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