The Library is collecting records of life in Ireland during the pandemic. We want to hear from YOU.
As soon as the lockdown started, the Library and the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Institute got together to consider how the story of Covid 19 in Ireland would be told in future years? Like many other research institutions worldwide, we decided to initiate a rapid-response collecting initiative which is called ‘Living in Lockdown: archives of the Trinity College community during the Covid pandemic 2020.’ Rapid-response collecting is a relatively new development in collecting institutions. Research libraries, museums, and galleries usually decide whether to collect potential research material after the passage of time allows the significance of the material to be objectively evaluated. However, this means that ephemeral items and evidence – including children’s drawings, graffiti, public signage – can be irretrievably lost.
The aim of the Living in Lockdown initiative is to collect personal records of individuals’ experiences of, and responses to, the circumstances of life in Ireland (and not just the actual lockdown) during this global health crisis. Whatever records are submitted – whether photos, poetry, essays, anything you wish – will become part of the Library’s permanent collections and will be made available for research in the future.
The thinking behind the initiative is the desire to ensure that the personal voice becomes part of the official history of Ireland’s – and Trinity’s – Covid experience. Throughout history, it has always been quite rare that private individuals’ records of their experience of world events survive to be used by historical researchers. Think of all those millions of letters which were written, worldwide, during the 1918 flu pandemic; only the tiniest fraction of them survives in research libraries today.
Even though personal records are easily created digitally, and so many of them are made widely available online, the greater part of such material will go the way of the letters from 1918, without some kind of intervention. In fact, digital records are much more vulnerable to loss than physical ones. If a letter is not destroyed on purpose, benign neglect might just permit it to survive. That is not the case with digital artifacts such as photographs, emails, and tweets. The Library, and the Hub, are well versed in the demands of digital preservation and will make this expertise available to members of the College community, and others, who would like records of their experiences to survive and be used.
‘Living in Lockdown’ has been active for a couple of months now and we have had a wide range of submissions from the College community (including from an 86 year old alumnus, and from non-TCD individuals who are also very welcome to get involved). Our only real obstacle is that we cannot accept physical items until we reopen in August, so if you have something for us, please hold on to it for another little while. We are designing some ‘sub-groups’ within the collection; one is focused on the work of children associated with the TAP programme, and another will specifically target sports people (this sub-group is being designed in association with the Digital Repository of Ireland). We also have an oral-history strand in which we offer interested individuals the opportunity to take part in a recorded Q&A.
If you are tempted to take part, you could have a look at our webpage which has all the information and gives details of how to make a submission. You are also welcome to contact the project directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, using Living in Lockdown in the subject line.
Dr Jane Maxwell
Manuscripts & Archives Research Collection