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Collecting COVID-19: your history, your voices

July 2nd, 2020 By John Sullivan
The Library is actively working to document and record New Zealand’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some ways that you can make your personal memories part of the national record.

Help us build the Library’s COVID-19 collection!

Did you record your thoughts, experiences, activities during lockdown? Are you continuing to record your experience of moving to a new normal since we entered Alert Level 1?

New Zealanders have found all sorts of ways to document their lives during the COVID-19 alert level phenomenon. Videos and photographs, emails, diaries and letters, memes, tweets and artworks; all of these and more have been generated by people seeking to encapsulate their experience of these extraordinary events.

In decades to come, researchers will be curious about this unique time in New Zealand’s history, and how we handled it as individuals, families, households and communities. Your children and grandchildren may be among them.

The Library is actively working to build a documentary record of New Zealand’s experience of the pandemic, and we would be keen to talk with you about making your personal memory part of the national record. Our aim is to ensure that the Library’s COVID-19 collection is representative and includes diverse voices from communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Gnome painted on concrete wall holding a surfboard and a gathering on the grass in front of the wall of small figurines appearing to have a picnic.
‘Level 2 Gnome’ by Taja Farslow, Wellington Rd, Paekakariki. Photograph by Deidra Sullivan.

How we organise our collecting

The Library has two main streams of collecting:

  • unpublished/archival materials donated to the Turnbull Library’s heritage collections, and
  • published materials including those acquired under legal deposit.

We are asking you to consider donating your unpublished/archival materials and to help us collect published content about COVID-19.

Did you take photos of empty streets, parks and cities while out walking? Did you record video diaries, write a song, or keep a journal? Do you have stories of mad-dashes back to New Zealand from overseas? Have you documented the challenges and frustrations of living under lockdown, either here in New Zealand, or as a New Zealander in an overseas country?

These items and others like them can help future generations understand what life was like for us under lockdown. The Alexander Turnbull Library is interested in your voices and stories. Anyone of any age can submit items documenting how things are changing and continue to change during the time of COVID-19.

Find out more about donating unpublished material to the collections

Sticker for seat back in the shape of a red stop sign for public buses and trains to maintain social distancing.
‘Stop! Don’t sit here’ sticker on Hutt Valley train line, 10 June 2020. Photograph by Llewelyn Jones.

What do we mean by unpublished/archival material?

The following are types of materials that we are interested in collecting, either digitally recorded or in analogue format:

  • photographs taken within your bubble, or around your neighbourhood
  • personal documents, such as diaries/journals, correspondence or scrapbooks
  • artwork/drawings created during or after lockdown
  • ephemera such as posters, signs, or flyers, and
  • videos of conversations or interviews with friends and family, musical performances, or other forms of entertainment.

It may turn out that we are not the most suitable home for your work, but we can put you in touch with a national network of libraries, museums and archives who might be able to help.

If you have any questions, or would like to offer items for our collections, please contact us at Ask a Librarian.

DOC signage for narrow tracks in parks and forests displayed on a white sign — "Warning COVID-19: narrow track - hard to maintain 2m social distance".
COVID-19 narrow track warning sign, Kaitoke Regional Park, Upper Hutt, 28 June 2020. Photograph by Valerie Love.

The Library collects a wide variety of published material from or about Aotearoa, primarily under the legal deposit provisions of the National Library of New Zealand (Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa) Act 2003.

We collect New Zealand print publications of all kinds under legal deposit, as well as running our web harvesting programme and collecting social media content, ebooks, email newsletters, digital music and podcasts, digital maps, PDF documents and other formats.

The vast majority of public information about COVID-19 and our rāhui has been published online via websites, blog posts, email newsletters, electronic reports, podcasts, and social media posts. The Library is working to ensure that these materials are preserved.

Help us collect COVID-19 published material

If you or your business or organisation have published any physical or digital publications about COVID-19, please make sure you have met your obligations under legal deposit and deposited copies with us. If you’re not the publisher but you know of a physical or digital publication that we don’t have but that you think is in scope for legal deposit, let us know and we’ll check it out.

Find out about submitting your publication

If you have examples of things like email newsletters or public social media posts from your community, family or organisations that you would be happy to submit, please email legaldeposit@dia.govt.nz. They will be preserved as part of the nation’s memory of the lockdown period and related events and will be available to New Zealanders now and long into the future.

The Ministry of Health QR code for visitors to the National Library, with yellow border for improved visibility.
Unite Against COVID-19 NZ Covid Tracer App flyer for the National Library building in Wellington, signed by Dr Ashley Bloomfield, 10 June 2020.

Websites and social media

The other area you may be able to help with is nominating websites or social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) you would like to see preserved. Many community websites are already being preserved as part of the Library’s regular processes, but this is a chance for us to make sure that a range of community content is reflected in the nation’s memory of this unusual time.

If you want to nominate any websites or social media accounts please use the Web Archive nomination form. You will be asked for some details of the site, including whether it is yours or someone else’s, as this helps the Library to collect responsibly and seek permission where needed.

Find further advice on how you can preserve your own social media content at home.

Screenshot of an archived website held in the NDHA showing a pink banner across the top and an embedded Youtube video underneath.
#TFA Thankful for art website, Creative New Zealand, www.thankfulforart.co.nz. Archived by the National Library of New Zealand, 20 April 2020.

Get in touch

If you’d be willing to donate materials relating to the COVID-19 pandemic to the Library’s collections, please get in touch via Ask a Librarian.

Thank you for adding your voices to help us represent this important moment in history. We greatly appreciate the generosity of individuals, whānau and organisations, whose donations and deposits enrich our collections for the benefit of researchers everywhere. We look forward to hearing from you.

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