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

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 113: Saturday 11 July

It’s been about 15 weeks since my first blog entry and it’s surreal to see how much has changed and how quickly you adapt to a new way of life. That initial fear of the unknown which characterised the early stages of lockdown has now been replaced with a hope that things won’t be as bad if/when the second wave comes around.

Since my first entry, I’ve worked as a Call Handler and Call Administrator for the Crisis Support Hub alongside my usual role as Marketing Assistant. Because of this, work has felt pretty hectic at times and has definitely made navigating a pandemic all the more interesting. The Hub has now been wound down and we’re planning for the reopening of The Beaney and the Roman Museum, something which had felt like a million miles away just a few months back.

I get to spend this weekend with my partner, who I wasn’t able to see for 3 months during quarantine. We spent the day in Folkestone walking along the Leas, browsing the Harbour Arm market, drinking coffee, avoiding people but befriending their dogs, and sitting on the beach wondering what it will be like to live here post-lockdown.

Before lockdown, we’d started house hunting in Folkestone and had dreamed of being moved into a place by now, sipping pints while watching the Euros at the Harbour Arm’s open air cinema and just generally living our best artsy, pretentious lives. So far this summer has featured a disappointing lack in pints and I’ve barely had a sip of specialty coffee in 4 months. Hard times all around, really. 

We admired the sunset from the Leas promenade, talking about how it felt like time had frozen during lockdown and how we’re only just realising the time we’ve lost now we’re emerging from it.

We head home for an evening of Mario Kart and tea. An iconic duo, if ever there was one.

By Nina Carroll-Jones, Marketing and Audience Development Assistant

View of Folkestone Leas in the sun

Day 114: Sunday 12 July

It’s Sunday, so we sit down together and have a cooked breakfast. A good thing about lockdown has been that we have had more meals together and time to chat as a family. After a few boring chores of washing up and putting washing on the line, Martin and I head off on a leisurely coastal bike ride. We decide not to head towards Herne Bay/Whitstable due to the large crowds, but instead take the coastal path from Reculver to Westgate. There are quite a few people out walking and cycling but everyone is being respectful and keeping their distance. 

While we are pedalling along on our tandem, I am thinking about tomorrow – my first day back at The Beaney since March to help prepare for the museum reopening next week. It is both exciting and daunting. It will be great to see my colleagues again but what will it be like trying to keep the 2m rule? What will it be like wearing a face covering all day? How busy will the roads be? And most importantly will I be able to get my favourite parking spot! Since lockdown I have worked from home with my family bringing me regular drinks and snacks. I worked as part of the Community Hub which was very rewarding but also challenging at times, making sure people received food parcels and their medication.

We have now arrived at Westgate and push our bike along the prom to the cafe. We would normally have brought a picnic but we are trying to help small businesses so we are buying lunch out. While we are waiting for our food it is great to watch children on the beach playing in the sand and splashing in the sea. Just for a moment Covid 19 seems forgotten and then our food arrives – delivered by a waitress wearing a mask! 

When we arrive home, we spend some time relaxing in the garden- we have had more time to relax in the garden this year as we are normally busy out and about. I return to thinking about tomorrow and important questions like what to wear and should I make an effort and put some makeup on?

 By Sarah Ellard, Administration and Finance Assistant

Pink flowers

Day 115: Monday 13 July

I wish it was Sunday… I could have spend an extra hour in bed..

The sun is shining and the dog is already waiting for her morning stroll. We drive to our favourite place for dog walking – Curtis Wood Park. It feels a bit like a rush-hour. Everyone is trying to walk their dog before the heat arrives.

At the beginning of lockdown, dog owners were behaving very oddly. They are usually very chatty people but those days the gloomy message of staying apart made everyone pretty sad. A quick greeting, passing each other as quickly as they could, not allowing their dogs to come closer to any other dogs. Things are getting a bit more normal now. We still keep our distance but we smile and have a quick word – as our dogs have time for a gentle sniff and tail-wagging greeting ritual.   

We are back home in 30 mins or so. Time flies and I need to get myself ready for work. Today is a very different day. It’s the first day that I am not working from home! Yay! I am meeting two of my great colleagues: Sarah & Josh in The Beaney! We will be working to get things ready for the reopening of the museum next week. The lockdown happened so quickly. that there was no time to sort things out. We were rushed to leave things as they were. Everything was left standing still.

I met Sarah in the car park. We “hugged” each other from a distance and walked to work together having a nice chat (keeping a distance obviously) as we used to do. It is nice to speak to someone face to face.

The time in The Beaney passed very quickly. Sarah & Josh have done a brilliant job with removing outdated leaflets, sorting out stock & leaflet cupboards, tidying up the retail space and other desks where the Visitors Services Officers work from.

A short stop in a shop for something quick and easy to cook for dinner on a way home. But cooking will be done after a walk with the dog. Then a bit of telly. A couple of days ago we heard that a comet, Neowise, is passing the Earth very close. The best time for spotting is the time just after dusk or just before dawn. The sky wasn’t particularly clear but we thought – shall we try to spot the comet and even if we won’t be lucky, we should have a nice evening walk? We head to the north coast. As predicted the sky wasn’t completely clear. Technology is very useful nowadays; you can find an app for everything. There is one for gazing into the sky too! We knew that the comet will be visible just above the Capella constellation.  And there it wasn’t.. We know we are in the right spot, we will just need to come down another time. We need to rush, though. Neowise is not planning to return to Earth for another 7000 years.  

By Anna Cudnowska, Senior Administration and Finance Officer

Capella constellation

Day 116: Tuesday 14 July

After the beautiful Summers day we had yesterday, today I woke up to a grey and miserable view out my window (or to what my brother later likened to a ‘Scottish Summer’s day’). This was followed by a very muddy, soggy Bella cat running up the stairs, onto the bed, and all over the clothes my poor husband had laid out ready for work. It was early and I think he was a little envious of me still being in bed at 7am. He works in a care home for adults with learning disabilities, so no home working from him..

For me, today was another busy day or prepping for The Beaney museum reopening next Tuesday. However, with only two video meetings schedule all day, I managed to cross some tasks off the ‘to do’ list (and even managed a lunch break which was an achievement!)

Today the government announced face coverings would become compulsory in shops from the 24th July. We discussed on our team meeting the implications, if any, that will have on our planned stance of optional face covering for our museum visitors. It was decided face covering would be strongly encouraged, but not compulsory.

In other headlines today, Banksy has returned to the London Underground with a piece encouraging people to wear a face mask on public transport. He posted a video on his social channels of a man, believed to be the enigmatic artist himself, disguised as a professional cleaner. He can be seen ordering passengers away as he gets to work, stencilling rats around the inside of a carriage. He called the work ‘If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get’, and it features a number of rats in pandemic-inspired poses and wearing face masks. One rodent stencilled on the Circle Line train appears to be sneezing, while another is shown spraying antibacterial gel. Made me smile 🙂

Finished up working at 7pm but then realised I hadn’t done my Creating Heritage blog entry that I said I would do, so thought I had better log back on and write it quickly before my Marketing Assistant, Nina CJ, emails me to tell me off.

Writing it also gave me an excuse to postpone my planned workout until tomorrow. I justified it by the fact that I haven’t yet broken my ‘no wine until Friday’ rule that I’m giving a go this week (however it’s only Tuesday, so we’ll see how long that lasts..)

By Holly Buggins-Eaves, Marketing and Audience Development Manager

BBC news headline about new Banksy artwork

Day 117: Wednesday 15 July

Today I did two things that I have not done in over 100 days: take a train, and go into The Beaney. The train was mostly how I remember, although a lot quieter and of course I had to travel wearing a face mask. They are not my favourite things to wear, but at least I don’t have to bother with make-up before leaving the house. 

The museum was also for the most part unchanged. I got to see some of my friends at work for the first time which wasn’t on a computer screen, it was nice having a conversation that didn’t have a few seconds lag or pet interruptions. I had to go in for training; The Beaney will be open to the public next week, so we all have to get to grips with how the visitor will move around the space. It will be exciting to see people in the galleries again. 

We have all been given face masks to use at work. They have ‘Keep smiling’ on the front. It’s a little cheesy, but I think it speaks volumes. Keep smiling. Look at the positives. Carry on. 

By Grace Conium, Collections and Learning Assistant

Orange 'keep smiling' face mask

Day 118: Thursday 14 July

Today I’m back to work after 2 weeks off. I spent the day organising marketing materials and timelines for our upcoming Museum of You exhibition. A mighty task involving over 100 artworks and artists. It is also a few days before The Beaney reopens, an exciting time and a sign of some normality returning. When the lockdown was announced it was difficult not knowing when it was going to end and having just started in my role, I was then very quickly working from home. It was an unusual experience and way to start a job. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s faces in real life again, hopefully I remember what everyone looks like…

I am currently self isolating after some non covid related medical treatment, so as England comes out of lockdown not much has changed for me just yet. I’ve only got a few more days that I have to isolate and then I can go back out – my first stop is going to be a coffee shop for a decent coffee. It’s a very small thing to miss but one of those little treats that I’ve missed during lockdown – extreme levels of caffeine, made by a stranger, served in a cup that I don’t own. From what I can see and hear outside my window in the evenings it certainly sounds like people are enjoying the pubs and restaurants of Canterbury again. 

I’m looking forward to being able to get out and about again, especially seeing people, some I haven’t seen since March. I’ve got video call fatigue and while the online quizzes, parties and chats were a great way to keep in touch, nothing replaces face to face interaction. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing my friends who live in different parts of the country and being able to give my nan a proper hug when I see her. 

By Jemma Channing, Health and Wellbeing Coordinator

Wall artwork that says 'Please believe these days will pass'

Day 119: Friday 15 July

The Museum has been a hive of activity this week with all the staff getting ready for reopening next week. Today I drove into work to meet my colleague Charlotte at The Beaney. Such a common activity pre-Covid and now it feels almost surreal…DRIVING TO WORK!! Charlotte and Paul have been working hard putting in a new exhibition in the Drawing Room this week and today is the last day of installation. It’s made all the more difficult wearing masks and standing 2 metres apart from each other! The exhibition is the culmination of an 18 month long project that has worked with volunteers to catalogue prints and artworks in the collection. We have brought many out for public display for the first time. The exhibition looks great and it feels so good to actually get back to the museum again and be surrounded by amazing artwork! 

Today I have brought a filmmaker with me who is making a short documentary about the project. Charlotte and her discuss the interview and what shots she wants to take. While they are busy I go and talk to the duty officer about work that needs to happen in the Special Exhibitions Room. We took down The Printed Line, a touring Arts Council Collection exhibition, back in March when lockdown first started. It had only been open a week! The gallery needs to be painted and made ready for the next exhibition that will open in early August, so I discuss this with my colleague. After the filming has finished I head home for emails and a few last conversations with colleagues before the new week starts.

By Mitch Robertson, Programming & Collections Manager

Hands holding an illustration of the entrance to St Augustine's Abbey

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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