History comes home

badge© Redbridge Museum

Redbridge Museum will open a new permanent exhibition in the spring exploring 200,000 years of local history. In the 12th of a series of articles, Museum Officer Nishat Alam looks at some of the items on show

Two years ago, I launched Your Covid Story, a project focused on collecting stories about life in the borough during the coronavirus pandemic. I asked local people for photos, videos, artwork or accounts of their daily walks, working from home, and the ways their communities had come together to support one another during difficult times. In this article, I discuss some of the material I gathered and how these will factor into the collections of Redbridge Museum.

We’ve been collecting from local people for 20 years, and particularly for this kind of project, it’s been an effective way to build our collection with more contemporary stories. We see first-hand people’s passions and struggles through narratives that convey both positive emotion and the sad or mundane realities of living through a pandemic.

I spoke to several local groups working together to help each other, like the Redbridge Community Crafters who sewed scrubs and face masks for medical staff and have donated samples for our collection, and Redbridge For Education who sourced laptops for children studying from home during lockdown. I was especially touched by the work of Redbridge Foodbank, a pre-existing service that had to adjust its operations to comply with new measures and huge demand as more and more people turned to them during the crisis. 

Sophie Edwards of Wanstead sent in a moving account of her family’s lockdown activities and the impact of the pandemic on her work as a doctor. It’s accompanied by photos and a badge she had made for her staff (pictured here). I was also interested in recording how people spent their free time and gladly accepted rainbow artwork by local children and even a brilliant rainbow crochet shawl. 

The purpose of the project was to document the impact of the pandemic on Redbridge and to preserve some of these stories in the collections of Redbridge Museum & Heritage Centre. A number of these will feature in a display in the new museum looking at the most recent events in our history, which will present the experiences and feelings of local people during the pandemic. The personal items will sit alongside material most of us have become familiar with over the last few years – from Covid test kits to a vaccine vial.

The response to my call-out was great and we’ve managed to gather a variety of stories, but if you have an object, photo or story that you think should be included in our collection, please do get in touch.

To contact Redbridge Museum, email redbridge.museum@visionrcl.org.uk

To complete a survey about the museum’s new displays, visit wnstd.com/rm

Author: Editor