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Living in Lockdown: further addition of children’s personal records to Library’s research collections

In 2020, as a response to the Lockdown, Trinity College Library invited members of the University to send in personal records reflecting their experiences. The response to this Living in Lockdown project was wonderful and all the photographs, poetry, craftwork, and videos which were received will be used by future historians of the pandemic.

One of the most exciting responses were from children and, to mark the first year anniversary of the Lockdown, in March 2021 the Library published an online showcase of some of the work sent in by children associated with the Trinity Access Programme.

Another year later, in April 2022, another special event was organised to showcase the Lockdown experience of children.

Back row Orlaith O’ Briain, Arianna Griffith, Isobel Murray, Mollie Brien Niamh Arcan, Maci Clancy, Niamh Davies, Zoe Kavanagh, Daryna Vilanova, Bonny Quinney, Xiyin Chen, Jessica Mathews.
Third row from the front; Brillia Baby, Rachel Plummer, Aideen Brown, Alice Gibson, Ciara Duffy, Nicole O’ Keeffe, Lily Leonard, Millie Curley, Laura Bernaz Botnaru, Alexia Illie, Roisín Stapleton,Leah Brady
2nd row from the front:
Serena Shortt, Sofia Karpova, Sienna Sweeney, Reeva Carrol, Aoife Hogan, Evangeline Bridge, Olivia Ormonde, Olivia Canavan, Fern Melia, Sophie Murtagh Greaney, Hannah Hannon, Saorla Doyle, Síofra Massey, Hollie Harvey-Treeson, Hannah Brien, Tara O’ Toole
Front row (seated):
Shauna Lyons, Ruby Murphy, Molly O’Sullivan, Aoife Demel, Isabelle Meehan, Sophia Corp, Ariya Farrell, Lia Coibanu, Alice Hayde, Ellie Devlin, Arianna McKeon, Andrea Suguitan, Chloe Codyre, Rachel Murphy

Breda Dunleavy, a teacher in St Patrick’s Loreto Primary School, Bray initiated a social history programme with the children from Junior infants to sixth class (aged between 4 and 12 years of age). She and her colleagues encouraged their pupils to write and draw their memories of Lockdown. The work was then digitally copied and produced in high-quality booklets, one for each class. Realising what a triumph the project was, Ms Dunleavy, in agreement with the school’s Board of Management and the children’s parents, approached the Library to donate the material to the Living in Lockdown project, so that it would survive to become a permanent part of Ireland’s record of this global health crisis.

The Principal of the school, Niamh Morrogh says she is ‘very pleased with the prospect of the children’s work being acknowledged by the University’.  

Each page of each booklet contains a drawing and some text by an individual child. There are some themes which are consistent across all the classes – the closure of schools, the absence of family members, and the inability to play with friends.

Front cover of one of the donated books. (TCD MS 11627)

A notable characteristic of the children’s work is the difference between what is written and what is drawn, possibly because young children are adept at drawing long before they learn to write. Often, the written text seems flat, even unemotional – ‘I was bored’ ‘I miss my friends’. However, the drawings are without exception heartfelt, and eloquent of deep feelings. They include images of the virus menacing holiday makers at the beach; family members lying prone on the ground having been struck down by disease; a family home under Lockdown harshly coloured in with black pencil.

On 5 April Breda Dunleavy brought some of the young children into Trinity College for a formal handover of the material, complete with a hand-decorated presentation box made by the children. She believes ‘the books are a wonderful compilation of all that was both positive and negative for the children during the pandemic and I am delighted that they will form part of the “Living in Lockdown”  project collection in Trinity for another generation to read, exclaim over and reflect upon’.

Formal presentation of children’s records, in the Long Room of the Old Library. Breda Dunleavy (teacher) Jane Maxwell (Library) and pupils from St Patrick’s Loreto Primary School Bray

As a person interested in the preservation of the voices of children in the historical record, this gift is doubly wonderful. Quite simply, it makes the material the Library already has more likely to be used in the future. For any archival collection to be attractive to future historians, it should be as complete as possible, having many and varied access points for research questions. By adding a large tranche of materials to the Library’s growing ‘children’s art’ collection – both from the Trinity Access Project Bookmark programme, and the original Living in Lockdown children’s records – St Patrick’s Primary School social history records have ensured that the Library can offer future researchers an extremely attractive primary resource.

Dr Jane Maxwell

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