Covid Makes History
A platform for museums across Europe
The House of European History began a project collecting evidence of life in Europe during the pandemic, under the working title "Documenting Covid". So far it has focused primarily on the phenomena of solidarity, hope and community building. As a next step, we are sharing the experiences and results from a variety of museums' diverse collecting actions. Together these allow us to connect, confront and compare experiences with a continent-wide audience.
Museo Nacional de Antropología (Madrid) - "Covid Projects"
We asked our visitors to send us photographs with their masks on. These masks are mandatory and therefore define new faces in public spaces.
During the confinement phase, we asked our public to turn their house into a museum and explain their "favourite piece" in video. Alfonso told us that his hat brought back to him many memories of his country: Mexico.
During the confinement, more than 20 anthropologists collaborated with the museum giving some indications about what was happening and which changes in human life could be expected after this. We have published their articles on the MNA website. This picture appears in Álvaro Alconada’s “Suspended in a time of reflection”.
Written caption "Don't touch me! I could have the virus!"
During the weeks in which the Spanish people were confined to their homes to avoid falling ill with Covid, their windows were their only way of seeing what was happening outside, in their street or neighbourhood. So we asked them to send us photographs of themselves. This photograph, from Ana’s window, shows us how, despite being "locked up", you can still see the rainbow.
We also asked our community to send us photographs showing how they had returned to their neighbourhoods after not being able to visit them for several months. Ángel sent a photograph showing the first visit to the church in a long time.
The National Museum of Finland - "Photo Collection"
Participants in the Poikkeusliike (‘Exceptional Moves’) community dance event in the Ruoholahti district of Helsinki, 27 March 2020. People took part in an online dance event all over Finland by dancing for 20 minutes at the same time in a place of their choice.
The Superhoitaja (‘Supernurse’) mural thanks nurses for their work during the coronavirus pandemic. The graffiti art by Molotow Finland is a mark of respect for healthcare workers and is in the Konepaja area of the Vallila district of Helsinki, 28 April 2020.
Environmental studies class in Sinebrychoff Park for Class 3B of the Helsinki German School (Deutsche Schule Helsinki), 26 May 2020. Some classes worked outdoors and some indoors when the schools reopened in mid-May. Special educational needs teacher Anmol Dogar is in the background.
Despite the coronavirus, the Hurstin apu (‘Hursti Aid’) organisation distributed food to poor and disadvantaged people in the Kallio district of Helsinki, 17 April 2020. Owing to the lockdown, queuing was abandoned and food was distributed whenever people came to ask for it. The charity distributes food and clothing parcels all year round to those who need them, and it organises various events.
Slovene Ethnographic Museum - "Collecting jokes related to coronavirus"
With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, we at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, as a socially responsible institution, asked ourselves how we could respond to it and, above all, how we could help people in a given situation. We decided to start collecting jokes that started circulating among us. With this, we wanted to make people happy and relieve them of everyday worries, fears and anxieties associated with illness, isolation, loneliness.
On the other hand, we also wanted to record the situation in society with jokes that are part of our spiritual cultural heritage. One of the jokes says that given the number of jokes circulating, there has never been a happier pandemic. Or that the jokes about the coronavirus are spreading faster than the virus itself.
In two months we have collected more than 1,000 jokes and their selection is currently on display in computer projection in main museum hall and on the outside stand in front of the museum, where we write new jokes every week. For the Summer Museum Night on 20. June 2020 we are preparing an exhibition "Koronski humor".
Monoghan County Museum, Republic of Ireland - “Recording Our Experience”
Museum of Ethnography, Hungary - “Quarantine Objects”
‘As a big fan of embroidery I am well aware of the time that needs to be invested; I also embroider a lot in my free time. The mask has two layers and is crafted by hand. I chose the violet to decorate it for two reasons: it is one of the first flowers that flourish in spring, exactly at the same time when the pandemic has turned up in Hungary; and on the other hand it has a symbolic meaning of rebirth and hope - for fighting against the virus.’
’Both my husband and I were teleworking during the confinement. I have an equally balanced and quite busy daily routine. His workload is random but the supervision is strict, his activity on screen is being checked from time to time. However, when there are no tasks to deal with — but you know that there would be a lot to do in your home — it can be infuriating. A solution has been found in the form of skewers. While I am working, the other screen also remains on. ’
‘I love to spend my time being creative, when it comes to decorations. That creation has been made as the centrepiece for Easter. We haven’t seen our family members for weeks now and it became a daily routine to watch the updates on the virus every day on the telly. I particularly think that our days can get much better with a bit of sense of humour.’
‘People went extreme with buying masks as soon as the pandemic turned up in Hungary, therefore I have decided to make my own ones - it seemed the only solution. I was looking for a premium quality cotton shirt that I could produce 6 masks from the back of it.
It is a poignant picture for me because Italy is my favourite country and also had to face the virus first in Europe. There is an Italian phrase called “dare una mano” that means to give a helping hand to someone. The T-shirt has just got a missing arm, literally symbolising the missing help that Italy should have received from those countries whose tourists are basically the main customers of these goods.’
‘This ironing board has become a much greater part of our daily life in the last seven weeks than it was in the previous ten years. Its height is adjustable, therefore it is just perfect to keep the laptop on it during the online piano classes my child takes, so the teacher has a perfect view not only on the posture but on the fingers too. It was worth it to buy it for this reason alone.’
The National Museum of Denmark, Denmark - "Digital Artefacts on Covid-19"
During Easter a low populated local area experienced a surge of people hiking in the nearby nature even though the guidelines in Denmark said to confine at home. A resident felt provoked by the crowding of people and made a sign saying, “Go home” and put it by the road. As her neighbours were very vexed about this, she ultimately took the sign down.
Vesthimmerlands Museum, Denmark - “Covid Snapshot”
Every day the museum collects reports from people who suddenly feel that everything is turned upside down. Charlotte Høj Opheim-Winje is usually an orthopedic surgical nurse, but in a few days, she has been retrained to manage corona patients at Farsø Hospital. Her story is now secured for future generations.
Before entering supermarkets and grocery stores customers are encouraged to take care of each other and the employees and keep a distance. Furthermore the stores let people know that there is no reason for hoarding, since goods are still delivered every day. Signs and warnings are an important part of our museum’s documentation of a very special situation. Later on, some of them will end up in the museum’s collection. Furthermore, the museum collaborates with the Mayor’s office in order to secure decision summaries and other important municipal documents.
Hand sanitizer, plastic gloves and signs telling you how to behave in the supermarket, including the maximum capacity of the store. Shopping is suddenly a risky business and not at all as it used to be This is currently being documented by the museum which sees the COVID-19 crisis as a unique opportunity to document history as it is happening right now. What is really important to the museum is to depict all the changes going on.
La Fonderie, Belgium - “The intimate confinement”
"Before", this cart was the symbol of the shopping that "had to be done" at the weekend, to the detriment of other much more attractive occupations. We dragged it a bit like a ball, and we saw in it only a utilitarian object. Now, at the time of confinement, it has become the signal for exit and adventure.
As my wife (the one from the shopping cart) is teleworking in our room called the office, I am confined to our living room, dining room… But our office, in the past life, served as: a piano room, a singing room, a computer room, a painting room and every 2-3 days, as a drying room. "Plume" and I now live in our dining / dryer room. I console myself because, in this time of confinement, ironing has become superfluous (…) so we aren’t also living in an ironing room!
My cell phone has become very important since the start of confinement because I was able to call my family, my friends ... Thanks to the cell phone, I am also in contact with my teacher. I broke my old phone the weekend before the confinement started, and I was able to buy another at the very last minute, on Wednesday when all the stores were to close at noon. I arrived at the store at 11am. Phew!
Vienna Museum, Austria - “Corona Collection Project”
City Museum of Ljubljana, Slovenia - “Coronaproject”
Due to movement restrictions and to more easily control the movement of people around the shopping centre, the largest Slovenian shopping centre used shopping trolleys and barrier tape to create a pathway on which custumers could move and avoid meeting each other. This was done to reduce the possibility of physical contact.
Due to movement restrictions, closed shops and bars, the centre of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, was left completely desolated during the isolation. Almost no one was present on the square, which is a meeting point for locals and a tourist attraction.
Movement restrictions and no public transport services emptied the streets in Ljubljana’s city centre. Some took this opportunity for skateboarding practice. An advertisement can be seen to the left side of the picture, stating “Come together, by staying apart”, which is a reminder on the importance of social distancing.
National Museum of Contemporary Art, Romania - “UNARTE Quarantine Artistic Laboratory”
Teodora Savu (b. 1996), student at UNARTE - Graphic Arts Section, second year, Master, after priorly graduating her BA in Scenography
“Even though the house of my parents is much bigger than the studio I lived in Bucharest before the quarantine, I feel like I’m in one of those big cages at the zoo, where the animal gets to live in conditions that replicate its natural habitat, but it is still missing freedom.”
Mălina Lorelei Fulga (n. 1998), a student at UNARTE - Graphic Design Department, third year, BA level.
"Unfortunately, the situation forces me to keep my apartment as my only «home». By drawing I can escape a little and place myself in different spaces that have a familiar atmosphere. Although the state I am conveying is one of loneliness and boredom, I consider it a very beneficial period for artistic development and beyond.”
Diana Grigore (b. 1997), a student at UNARTE - Department of Object Design and Visual Communications Department, first year, MA level
"The «What day is it» series is a short self-isolation diary that illustrates my personal process of adaptation in the midst of a pandemic for almost a month. It started as a university assignment and turned out to be one of the most therapeutic activities I've done during these months.
The diary consists of two parts: the first part answers the «Where am I?» question and mainly reflects the psychological changes produced by the new and much-too-different reality between the four walls where we got stuck overnight. The second is about «Where would I like to be?» and nostalgically illustrates the small, once common desires that keep invading our thoughts during these times."