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

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 15: Saturday 4 April

Over a third of people around the world are in either a full or partial lockdown. In the UK, we are still only allowed to go out for food, health reasons or work (if unable to work from home). Today the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, remains in self-isolation as he continues to show mild symptoms after testing positive over a week ago; China is holding a national day of mourning for the thousands who lost their lives to the coronavirus pandemic; and news stories sway between ‘immunity passports’ to stricter lockdown measures. 

Amongst all of this, today is also my 30th birthday! My partner and I had originally booked to travel around Japan and if all had gone to plan, we would currently be staying in a traditional Japanese ryokan overlooking Mount Fuji. Instead, we go outside for our one authorised exercise, a walk through local woodlands and fields in the glorious sun. I still find it strange watching people navigate the two metre distance from others – it’s only when I leave my house and see people wearing gloves and facemasks, and queueing to enter the supermarket, that I am reminded of how unsettling the situation is. Having a birthday during lockdown is nothing compared to the sacrifices others are making and the trauma many are facing.

After our walk we return home and I open all the cards and presents I have been receiving in the post over the past few days. My friends and family send birthday well wishes and videos of them singing happy birthday. I feel overwhelmed with love. Later, we make Japanese food, bake a birthday cake, and open a bottle of champagne we’ve been saving for a special occasion. For a moment, I feel a sense of comfort and know that one day we will return to more normal times.

By Charlotte Halsey, Collections Assistant (Esmee Fairbairn)  

Birthday cake with candles lit

Day 16: Sunday 5 April

Hello folks, I hope you’re all well and coping with the lock down. Thankfully my family and I are doing well and so are my relatives in Spain. All my friends and dear colleagues are well too.

We have a routine in our house: the mornings are for house work, including the garden mowing the lawn etc. At about 1.30pm my mother and I start to prepare the family lunch. We stick to Spanish tradition both in what we eat and when. After lunch, siesta time! Then at 6pm it’s time to make mum and dad a cup of tea. We watch the news and the evening TV shows, dad in the front room, mum in her bedroom and me in my bedroom, so no squabbling over what to watch.

My passion is motorcycling and guitars. As I can’t ride my bike I completed a motorcycle road-craft e-learning course and passed first time much to my delight. This system of motorcycle road-craft is used by the police and paramedics and one of the things I remember is ‘don’t sacrifice safety for speed’. I love to play and record my guitar and I’m hoping to do a bit of sound engineering when I get a chance, as I’ve got a track that needs editing.

Our cat Oscar is a god send and he cheers us up no end. He’s always self isolating somewhere in the house or outside in the garden. When the sun comes out Oscar and my dad will be found on the decking soaking it all up.

Stay safe, stay strong and carry on, goodness will prevail. 

By Dito Perez, Visitor Service Officer

Black and white cat asleep, lying on its back

Day 17: Monday 6 April

I’m getting used to the changes we have all had to face. The Roman Museum has been a big part of my life for 12 years and things were suddenly very different for everyone. We can only manage the fear of this situation day by day. 

My casual workplace at Margate VIC asked me during the first week at home if I could help with their community helpline. A chromebook was delivered to my doorstep and I’ve been working using the Avaya system from my dressing table.

I’ve made new routines: peg washing out, coffee in my garden, check emails, video call a family member. My sister in law has been very ill with coronavirus but is now improving. 

Make a substantial lunch for my family. We have been eating as healthily as we can to keep our immune levels up. One family member has been doing our shopping but no more than twice a week. We have had masses of vegetables from the local farm shop and I’ve been keeping a food diary as they’ve been quite creative meals!

In the afternoon I’ve been doing research online for a project and trying to do some craft work or sewing. I’ve not had a TV for 10 years and don’t watch many films, but I had a code to choose one from a streaming service. We watched ‘Judy’ with Renee Zellweger which was very good (and emotional!)

I had to collect my Suzuki X90 from the garage, as it had been there a while waiting for parts and needed to be removed to store. My first outing! Everything there was cordoned off to ensure they could continue working and repairing.  It felt very odd driving a familiar road when everything now was so different..

I hope everyone is finding their own ways to cope with this. We are very adaptive but it’s not easy. 

Tonight brought a news flash – the prime minister is in intensive care. No one knows what’s coming next.

By Helen Dodds, Visitor Service Officer

Woman in a blue car

Day 18: Tuesday 7 April

It’s now been a few weeks of working from home for me and I have an established routine. This is my first week back at full time hours after having some time off due to suspected coronavirus. Last week I still had the fatigue associated with the virus so I’m glad to finally be back feeling my best. I start my day at the same time that I would if I were in the office. The commute is a very manageable 8 seconds. My husband, who has been working from home for 6 months, is happy to have some extra company. I miss having someone to say “Good Morning” to. So I have started enthusiastically shouting it into his office every time I walk past.

Today I am writing a health and wellbeing digital newsletter, filling it with ideas of activities people can do at home to improve their well being while they are in lock down. It’s important to strike a balance and not overload people with ideas, because I am aware that people already feel overwhelmed. I include activities that are easy to do and that are focused on relaxation. The idea is that by participating in creative activities, people can improve their overall sense of well being. I remind myself to take my own advice. For so long I have been championing the arts for their positive impact on health and wellbeing, now I feel that I’m putting it to its most stringent test ever. 

Underneath my desk, stacked up boxes of our museums handling collection have turned my home office into a micro Beaney. I am slowly 3D scanning them in the hope that we can get them online for our visitors to get up close to while they are at home. I think about how strange it is, to work in museums and be so interested in history, to then be unceremoniously plonked in the middle of it without warning – and wonder how in a few decades time, other museums will document and display this period of history. One of which we are all now a part. 

By Jemma Channing, Health & Wellbeing Programme Coordinator

Tripod with camera taking a photograph of an artefact

Day 19: Wednesday 8 April

Let’s just say we’re trying to keep busy and laugh as much as possible, anyway we can, so to not go crazy! Luckily, spring is here: this year, its timing couldn’t have been more welcome: sunshine, flowers and green grass make such a difference.

Aside from the task of updating lists for the visitor information centre and helping with the council call support (when technology is willing to cooperate!), I make myself read, walk, call home and stay in touch with those friends who are not drowning in negativity. I’ll spare you my housekeeping chore routine as no one wants to know how many times a day I hoover just to not fall idle – or think about the reason that made the world stop. 

We are watching a lot of animal documentaries. Happy they are taking over the world. We should give Earth back to them, and be ruled by wild boars. I had no idea that swans ruled Venetian canals when men are not around – they make much wiser administrators, that’s for sure.

Ironically, I keep finding documentaries about Sardinian food everywhere on BBC…they all came out of nowhere right after I cancelled my tickets to go visit my family on the island in May.

In this flat we are grateful for not having anything to complain about. Food is here; we haven’t been in the same space for over a month – as yet – as is the case in some other countries; we’re not risking our lives out there as some much braver people than us; we are safe and healthy, as we hope you and all your family and dearest are. 

By Sarah Angus, Visitor Service Officer

An open field at sunset

Day 20: Thursday 9 April 

I am not new to keeping a daily diary. I have been doing a diary for thirty years now. It probably seems a bit strange to a lot of people, but for me it serves many purposes. There is the theory that writing something down is an aid to remembering things.

Another bonus is to actually look something up, and to be sure of the accuracy. For example, this Covid 19 virus that is plaguing us. If it was brought up in conversation in a few years to come, it would all be logged in a routine way. Maybe I’m a bit sad in my methods, but everyone has different needs.

Today the prime minister came out of intensive care, so what a relief that was to most of us. Not in a purely political way, or just to lead us through these difficult times. But Boris Johnson has as much right to be here as anyone. (I know he said about rather being found dead in a ditch in his Brexit campaign.) Whatever we put on our ballot boxes, we live in a democracy and he is our leader. We need someone strong in the job that he has gotten himself into.

Yesterday I spent my first day working on the council crisis support call centre, based in our own homes, for our safety. I attended a 30 minute staff video conference with 30 other staff, to train us in how to do the job properly. This I did using my Macbook Pro to be able to be a part of it. This meant pulling out all the stops; iPhone, and then iPad to make calls, a trial with Bose bluetooth headphones, etc. It all came to fruition.

Brighter times ahead. I have attached a photo of Reculver towers, located close to me, a part of our unmatched Kent coast. 

By Keith Morris, Visitor Services Officer

Reculver Towers

Day 21: Friday 10 April

After almost three weeks in lockdown, the UK Government has announced that they currently have no plans to ease the restrictions here. A decision about when this could happen will not be made until later next week. In the news, I hear scientists saying that our efforts to stay indoors are now slowly paying off; as the growth in the number of deaths is decreasing daily. 

As it’s Good Friday, I began my day with hot cross buns in the garden before starting my third day of making calls for the council’s Covid-19 call centre. This makes quite a change from my usual job as a Visitor Services Officer at The Beaney, and is my first experience of working from home. Working in the call centre I have spoken to many people who, often due to age or illness, are finding it hard to cope in isolation. I’m reminded now more than ever of the importance of family and reaching out to others in difficult situations. 

I live with my parents and my younger sister and, as we have been doing most days, we sat outside in the sun for lunch today, before I continued taking my calls in the afternoon. At the end of my shift I went for my hour outside to take my dog, Gus, for a run in the fields to make the most of the evening sunshine. I ended the day enjoying dinner with my family and a few episodes of our favourite shows. This was followed by catching up on the news before bed, in anticipation of a quiet Easter weekend. 

By Amy Hey, Visitor Services Officer

White and Brown dog standing in a field

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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