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

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 8: Saturday 28 March 2020

The day started like any normal Saturday for me: being awoken at 06:30 by my dog, Pepper, who doesn’t understand the concept of a weekend. Of course today is different… It’s also Pepper’s first birthday! Unfortunately we couldn’t celebrate properly (much to the delight of my other half), so it may have to be postponed for a few months.

Of course we went out for a walk, I live quite rurally so was able to go the whole way without seeing another person.

In all, the lockdown has been going fine. I spent most of the day binge watching crime documentaries and crocheting, in between various calls with friends and family. My other half is managing the boredom in a different way. He has decided to make a start on redecorating the bathroom – which means ripping off all the plasterboard of course. Luckily we already have a lot of the supplies we need. But, for now, it remains unfinished.

By Grace Conium, Collections and Learning Assistant

Black and White dog on a dirt path


Day 9: Sunday 29 March 2020

As it was Sunday, today was probably a fairly usual day at home for us. When we woke up it was raining, hailing and pretty cold – ideal conditions for self isolation! It was easy to think that we were inside by choice today. I have been working from home for almost a week now and so far it’s been strange but successful. A few weeks ago I explained to my daughter that I was late home from work because of a meeting, she asked if she could come to the next one, which now seems like a premonition!

Sure enough, for our next team meeting via video, having heard the voices coming from the laptop, my daughter was sat on my lap. She’s preschool age and isn’t too worried about the ‘germs around at the moment’ so she’s having a great time at home. Today we spent playing different games. First I think was dolls, most of the group are from Disney, which is quite a big part of our lives, in and out of isolation. At some point we built a campfire with some sticks and my iphone. Later was LEGO, lunch, singing and dancing…

My partner and I were also making plans for my daughter’s fourth birthday in a few days. It will be an unusual birthday but we think it’s important to make it as exciting as it should be! In the evening, deciding it was cold enough, we swapped the iphone fire for a real one.

It’s only when watching the news or leaving the house that I’m reminded of what a difficult and unusual time this is. I hope we can stay healthy and that it will remind us to be grateful for the people and things we might sometimes take for granted.

By Murray O’Grady, Collections and Learning Assistant

Phone displaying an image of fire with twigs placed on top of the phone


Day 10: Monday 30 March 2020

Living with my brother (a carer) and my parents, who are both vulnerable adults, I have been somewhat concerned with what is going on, especially for my dad as his health is not as good as it once was. All things considered, this lockdown hasn’t been too bad. To be honest, I rarely left my house even before this happened, so staying at home is no problem for me!

My routine hasn’t changed much for the last few days. I only leave the house to take my brother to work and get supplies, but I also have a few projects to keep me focused. I’m still training for my charity walk in August (which hopefully will still go ahead, but I am still accepting donations and will donate them to the charity come what may). Set Go Gym (who I train with) have started doing online sessions and this has been most helpful to keep me fit. I also have my own indoor workout routine that I try to do every day when I wake up, so I’m certainly doing my best to keep fit. I’m also keeping in touch with my fiancée daily. She works as a nurse in Stoke-on-Trent and I’m a little worried about her – but she’s a stronger person than me, so I know she’ll be OK. One silver lining, at least she isn’t badgering me about wedding venues anymore!

Above all, I am staying positive and sending good vibes where I can – because I know this will all pass. The human race has survived every “apocalypse” from the Black Plague to Love Island – so I know we will all get through this. To quote Dolly Parton “…if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

By Dan Wright, Visitor Services Officer and “Captain Culture”

Screenshot of a workout routine


Day 11: Tuesday 31 March 2020

The biggest problem I have is getting my head around how quickly this has all happened! My parents are over 70 but luckily they have my sisters living close by. My husband who is a lorry driver is now a key worker. Less traffic on the roads means he can get home earlier!

I’m lucky that my daughters are at home. The eldest one works away on cruise ships but was home on leave when this all happened. She’s not sure when she will be returning but we are grateful that she is not stuck abroad. The youngest is on her gap year but was luckily at home working and saving for future trips. She is not sure when that is going to happen now with current restrictions!

I have been working at home from my caravan. It’s a cosy and quiet place which has been great, as I’ve been busy with the end of the financial year. I head to the “office” after breakfast and sift through emails before starting my tasks for the day. My family bring me tea but I’ve been told not to disturb them during “Pop Master”. Around 12.30, I get a message to say dinner is ready. I normally catch up with my manager, Anna twice a day. Today was a bit of a curve ball – a quick training session followed by calls to vulnerable people who had registered for help through the council website. It was nerve-racking to start but the people were so grateful that I soon got used to it.

In the evening, I catch up with friends and family. I am currently doing my neighbours’ shopping so I check whether they need anything. I also heard that a woman over the road has the virus. Luckily she tells me that she is recovering – it seems more real when it’s that close to home.

Hopefully one good thing that might come out of all this is a greater community spirit.

By Sarah Ellard, Administration and Finance Assistant

Caravan door that has a sign attached that has the Beaney logo on it


Day 12 : Wednesday 1 April 

I awoke with the birds this morning, going for a dawn chorus jog to wake up fully. Then I returned home to have my breakfast; a homemade porridge flavoured with dried fruit, nuts and berries. After that I sat down in my study to continue my reading; I’ve been making my way through the complete works of Carl Jung. I studied Psychology at university but we didn’t spend much time on Jungian archetypes, so it’s nice to read about them from the man himself. His writings can be somewhat verbose and I disagree with some of his reactions to Freudian theories, but it’s an interesting read for sure.

Then I have lunch, a rich cheddar cheese that I sourced from a local farmer’s market (before the shutdown of course!) on a few slices of seeded gluten free bread, followed with a handful of seeds and normally a blood orange. My wife and I then sit down for a bit of television, currently we’re watching one of Ken Burns’ documentaries on Ernest Hemingway. Then, to work off our TV time, we go for our second run of the day (naughty I know, but our health is very important).


I’ve not left the house in days, I’ve grown a ridiculous amount of stubble but I have at least watched the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings and began watching Mrs Columbo. I am taking care of myself properly (and going for ONE walk a day when the weather’s been amenable) and mainly trying to keep afloat on the large sea of uncertainty that currently engulfs us all. I run the Canterbury Shakespeare Festival in my spare time and I’m currently trying to ensure that some part of the festival goes ahead in these conditions.

By Elliot D. Huxtable, Visitor Service Officer and a fool the whole year round



Day 13: Thursday 2 April 

It is Day 13 of isolation. It is just me and my husband at home.  It has been an incredibly quiet day. We did our shopping yesterday so I won’t be out again until tomorrow morning.

My day starts as it does everyday with an early morning wake up at 6.15am from George, my young labrador.  Right now I am quite pleased to be woken up so early for his walk and for my exercise as it doesn’t have to involve too much social distancing, which is hard to manage with an over-friendly and very exuberant force on the end of the lead!

When I get in I check my calendar to see what shift I would have been working today. It would have been a 9-5 shift starting at the Visitor Services desk and then on to the art galleries. It would have been very inspirational for the art I make at home in my outside workspace.  My studio (shed!) is a place where I am so happy to be able to spend a lot of time now!

I listen to the news and the main topic is still the issue of Covid testing and the seeming chaos of getting an adequate number of tests to the NHS staff.  I worked as a nurse for 30 years before coming to work in the museum 6 years ago. 563 people are dead in 24 hours bringing the total to 2921. It feels very difficult to imagine the incredibly hard work going on outside from the solitude of the house. I really feel the anxiety of the staff in the NHS and hope things can be rolled out soon to help keep them safe.

After checking some emails, I take a photo of some seeds I planted and they are doing really well.  I shared the day I planted them with my 4 year old granddaughter by video. She did the same and sent a video back to me of her planting sunflowers. We are having a race to see how quickly they are growing!

Later I will add another song to my ‘Isolation’ music playlist which gets better by the day!

Tonight we will connect with the family on the computer and at 8 pm I will be opening the upstairs window and banging a saucepan to say thank you to all the front line workers that we all so need.

By Jane Orwell, Visitor Services Officer and Health and Wellbeing Ambassador.

Plant pots with small green plants sprouting in them


Day 14: Friday 3 April

From when our museums and tourist information desk temporarily closed, up to yesterday, (a span that feels like 30 years, but can’t yet be 3 weeks), I’d been continuing what I could of the usual service from home. Monitoring our public email enquiries and updating the ‘lists’ (the mystical encyclopaedia from which my Visitor Services Officer colleagues and I summon answers to many of the questions we get).  There’s always something to do and I’ve been glad to stay busy.

But today has been a bit different (aside from the start – that normal groggy struggle to make it to the kettle before I can do anything else!). Training by video conference, a technical call to IT, and now I’m phoning vulnerable and isolated people who have requested assistance from the Council.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to digest so much new information and do something so different to normal. But it’s important to do and once I got going my nerves were mostly dispelled.

Outside of work I’m trying to stay sane.  I’m doing a little bit of drawing and putting extra effort into keeping in contact with people.  Family video chats have been great (& something I’ve wanted to try for a while), albeit no substitution for the real thing.  I try to go for walks at quieter times, though it’s hard to avoid people entirely in a city, and I miss not being able to walk more.  It’s this and the remote social contact that weighs on me most. The rest is worrying, surreal and uncertain, but can also be kept at bay by good humour and imagination.

In that vein, the big distraction in my house this week has been a competition started by one of my housemates to establish the best chocolate.  Through various themed rounds subjected to house votes, and several heated debates, we’ve reduced 64 entrants to 4 semi-final contenders, which are in fact so contentious and unsatisfactory to each of us that to name them here would risk too much controversy!

Finally, my need for both exercise and a change of scenery has sent me exploring the rarely-ventured basement in our house, where rumour had it that a past tenant had long ago left their cross-trainer.  My accompanying image dramatizes this adventure, with a bit of creative license – it’s how I’d like to imagine it happened.

By Joshua Dack, Visitor Services Officer


Black and white pen illustration titled 'The Discovery of the Lost Cross-Trainer'

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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