Beatrice Behlen, senior curator at the Museum of London, working on its ‘Collecting Covid’ project to keep a record of London during the pandemic, says:
‘We are doing rapid collecting – basically, asking Londoners for artefacts from this time. It’s the first phase in what’s going to be a year-long project to compile objects and recordings. We’re interested in objects that allow us to tell experiences. The response to the public call-out has been overwhelming. I’ve found it interesting that a lot of people have reacted to the epidemic by writing poetry. We’ve also been offered a lot of photographs of empty London, and a lot about what people have been spending their time doing at home: learning new skills, occupying their children, who’ve made things in support for key workers. Signs, little sculptures, things like that. But one of the challenges of this project is that the early stage of lockdown was very much about absence. Absence of food, absence of toilet paper and, more tragically, absence of PPE. And how do you document something that isn’t there? We also want to talk about the way that funerals have been done differently, but we haven’t decided how we will deal with that. We’re trying to tread very carefully. We don’t have concrete plans yet for an exhibition (although I’m not ruling it out), but we will have objects that we can use to talk about this time in the future.