Verhalen Uit Het Hart (Stories from the Heart): A visual representation of the COVID-19 Crisis

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision set up a project entitled ‘Verhalen uit het hart’ (stories from the heart) that aims to create a collection of documents that represent the everyday effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone can contribute to this collection by uploading a video that exemplifies the effect of the pandemic on daily life. The aim is to create a databank of videos of the pandemic that can be stored forever and looked back on in the future. The collection makes it possible for anyone to contribute to the visual history of this exceptional time and to look back on it with actual footage of what it was like.

The collection so far is made up of 97 videos, uploaded by people from all over the Netherlands. They range from when the project began in May 2020 until around March 2021. Many of them are short videos that show images of things that would have looked strange to us before the outbreak of COVID-19, like face masks on public transport, empty streets, restaurants and terraces, and signs and even a van that tells everyone to keep their distance. Some videos also showcase the changes in daily life, like working from home through video calls, teaching children from home, visiting elderly loved ones through glass windows, or social distancing in the park.

When doing a brief analysis of the videos in the collection, you can see a remarkable difference between videos that were uploaded early on in the COVID-19 crisis as opposed to videos that were uploaded later on. In many of the earlier videos, people were finding creative ways to safely visit family, comfort each other, and help each other. One example of this is a woman helping her elderly mother learn to use FaceTime so she can stay connected throughout this period (Online uitleg over de Corona lock down in zorgcentrum de Oldeburgh - ). Another example is a concert performed outside a nursery home, where the residents could watch the concert from their windows (Perry Zuidam geeft ‘Corona’ optreden bij Verzorgingstehuis - ).

Later on in the COVID-19 crisis, the videos show that people are more negative and have a tendency to ignore the containment measures. In February 2021, for example, the Netherlands experienced lots of snow and it was finally possible to skate on natural ice again. Videos from the Verhalen uit het hart collection show people going out to enjoy this weather together and it is impossible to tell that there is still a pandemic going on. Nobody is keeping distance and there are masses outside (IJspret bij Molen De Ster Leidsche Vaart Utrecht – This is a stark contrast with earlier videos that show empty streets (for example Horeca heeft het zwaar - Another example is a video of curfew, which started at the end of January, on February 14th 2021. This was already almost a year into the COVID-19 crisis, and a few weeks into curfew. The video shows the first five minutes of curfew making absolutely no difference for the business on the streets, suggesting that people do not take this regulation seriously (Avondklok in de Jan Evertsenstraat – ). This video collection can therefore tell us that the longer the COVID-19 crisis went on, the less people seemed to understand and adhere to the measures. There seems to have been a change in mindset where people no longer supported each other and tried to find creative ways to keep in touch in a safe manner, but instead seemingly grew tired of the rules and carried on their lives as they would pre-COVID.