What did children think about Lockdown 2020? Let’s have a look, shall we? The Library has curated an online exhibition of children’s submissions to its lockdown archives-collecting project.
One of the Library’s initiatives, in response to the pandemic and the first lockdown, was embodied in our Living in Lockdown project. In association with the Trinity Long Room Hub, the Library invited members of the College community (and any other interested individuals), to submit a record to our rapid-response Covid archives-collecting project. The ambition was to combine a community-bonding activity, as we all went though this together but differently, with the Library’s mission to collect and make available primary sources for ongoing research.
There were many hundreds of submissions, in all formats, reflecting many kinds of experience. One of the distinct groups who submitted material were children. The Library collaborated with Dr Becky Long of the Trinity Access Programme who, in association with Children’s Books Ireland, designed the Trinity Access Primary School Archive Project – a competition for some of the primary schools working with TAP. Children were invited to submit a record to the project, to arrive by the start of September 2020, for the chance of winning a prize and with the promise that their work would be preserved permanently in the Library. Almost 40 submissions were presented and the material is both heart warming and sobering.
The children were encouraged to express themselves in whatever way worked best for themselves. As Becky Long advised the children, ‘when you think about it, reflective writing is like looking at yourself in the mirror and asking yourself a question – it’s all about what you think and how you feel.’ The children submitted drawings, diaries, letters to a future self, and poetry. One child drew her diary as part of a larger illustration of her life, while another produced illustrated diary entries. One child made some origami figures and drew what looks depressingly like a sports day conducted on Zoom. More than one imagined the virus as a super-villain, one describing a sort of 24 Days Later scenario where he woke up to find his home deserted (‘martial law had kicked in’), while another introduced Captain Immunity as the superhero in a computer game designed to rout the Coronovirus enemy.
The kinds of issues which were worrying the children were all the things one might suspect – absence of school friends and teachers, and of family members, and restrictions on social life. Serious worries about family members in front-line jobs, or with underlying conditions also figure. The sense of being besieged is clear in two images, one of the island of Ireland and the other of the lone figure of the artist (our banner image), both surrounded by the ubiquitous depiction of the virus. A single tear-filled eye, or a youthful figure hiding anxiously behind her own text, are other very strong statements.
Because of the circumstances of lockdown, the children and their families were requested to submit photographs of the works. It is hoped that the families will submit the physical artifacts when the opportunity presents itself.
There were two categories into which the children could submit a piece – Best Written Piece and Best Artwork – and any student from 4th and 5th class could win a workshop with an author or an artist for their class. A personal prize was awarded to students from 6th class – that means 15 books handpicked by the experts at Children’s Books Ireland! The two school prizes went to Assumption Senior Girls’ School, Walkinstown, and the Francis Street CBS in The Liberties. Among the schools participating were schools linked to the access programmes in UCC and DCU.
To mark the anniversary of the first lockdown in March 2020 the Library has curated a small exhibition of some of these works. These materials, physical and digital, will become part of the Library’s permanent primary-source research collections. The Library’s Living in Lockdown project team are finalizing the work which will ensure the longtime survival of these materials. It is to be expected that these children’s voices will add colour and youthful vigour to future research outputs focusing on the global pandemic.
The Living in Lockdown project is still ongoing and may be contacted at email@example.com
Dr Jane Maxwell