Archiving Covid-19 Communities

Julia Noordegraaf, Wednesday 24 June 2020

On 13 March 2020, a day after our MP Mark Rutte announced the first COVID-19 lockdown measures for the Netherlands, I flew to Helsinki for what would be my last trip abroad for the months to come. I was invited by the Academy of Finland to give the keynote lecture at the launch of the second leg of their Digital Humanities Research program (see the report of the event here). Since Finland was still ‘green’ (read: safe) on the map of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I decided it would be ok to travel. It was a trip that I will certainly remember, with the anxiety about the epidemic rising minute by minute, me wondering if I would make it back to my family in Amsterdam that night (which, fortunately, I did).

In the first three weeks of the lockdown, which for us really started with the decision to close the schools from 16 March onwards, all sorts of activities emerged to keep us busy, including a variety of emoji pub-quizes that circulated among my game-crazy relatives. It was such fun to compete to complete the list, with me ending up sending the answers in the form of GIFs (such as this one as the answer to number 1),

In spite of the fun, it was also a very strange and trying period, having to adjust to the combination of home schooling 11 and 13-year old kids with work. In the midst of this complete change of our normal routines, Tobias Blanke came with the suggestion to start collecting documentation of the way in which the crisis affects the lives of ordinary citizens. It seemed a strange time to start a new project, with me barely knowing how to complete my normal tasks. At the same time, it immediately seemed an important and timely project, which generated a lot of interaction with colleagues at the university and at the National Library of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and the Amsterdam Museum as well as a great collaboration with developer Alexa Steinbrück and advisors Mike Bryant and Daniel Chávez Heras on hacking together this platform.

So in the end, for me this lockdown period has generated a lot of positive energy and more contact with people both privately and in my working environment than I normally can manage. Now that the lockdown is gradually lifted (evidenced by my first COVID-19 public transportation experience this weekend), it is time to look back and reflect – at the good, the bad, and the ugly of this crisis and fill the platform with our stories and (audio)visual documentation.