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Videos, poems, diaries and scrapbooks donated to PRONI project to capture lockdown life in Northern Ireland


Bright outlook: The Rainbow Room in the Mater Hospital

Bright outlook: The Rainbow Room in the Mater Hospital

Shoppers wearing masks in early days of the pandemic

Shoppers wearing masks in early days of the pandemic

A lockdown home archive box.

A lockdown home archive box.

A poem by Lucy Billington

A poem by Lucy Billington


Bright outlook: The Rainbow Room in the Mater Hospital

They are memories from 12 months in Northern Ireland that will never be forgotten.

Poems, diaries, scrapbooks and photos have all been submitted to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) to create an archive of life during the pandemic.

The Stay Home Memories project was launched last June and received a significant response in the early days of the pandemic as households adapted to life indoors while educating and working from home.

"At the start it was all a novelty," said Lynsey Gillespie, an archivist with PRONI.

"We've had responses from around 100 people offering up materials showing what lockdown was like for them - we've had photographs, we've had videos, poems, diaries, scrapbooks.

"We've also had letters, different things that remind people of what it was like. We will quickly forget our experiences during the pandemic - we all think we'll remember what it was like but that's not the case."

A lockdown census form was also launched in which people were asked to describe the pandemic in one word, with huge variation in what was chosen.

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Ms Gillespie added: "The most interesting part of it was when we asked for people to describe the lockdown in one word and more than 50 different words were used. It shows you the variety of experience for people in how they found the pandemic and what stood out for them.

"Children and young people describe it differently to older people and elderly people - some found it worrying, scary or relaxing but mostly children and young people found it boring."

Early responses to the project show how the attitude towards the pandemic has changed over the past year, she said.

"When you look back now to the start of lockdown, face masks in shops weren't a thing at the start. Some people had scarves around their faces but it wasn't as prevalent," she said. "Clapping for the NHS was also a feature of the first lockdown.

"Pictures of empty shelves in the supermarket were sent in and they serve as a reminder of how it unfolded."

Nominations of social media pages that reflected the pandemic for PRONI's web archive were also collected.

"There were Facebook groups for people who were sewing scrubs for the NHS or face masks, or businesses who were continuing to deliver through lockdown," said Ms Gillespie.

PRONI has even received official communications from people who wanted government letters to have a place in the archive.

She added: "Some people sent in the letter they got from Boris Johnson when it all kicked off and the text from the government to stay we're all in lockdown now.

"Others sent us photos of outdoor exercise classes on their street or tea parties in their gardens. Some children drew pictures or wrote poems.

"People were trying anything and everything to make it through the time."

The project was intended to last for a few months but will now remain officially open until June 2021.

PRONI is always open for submissions for people who may find material in the future they think should be included.

Belfast Telegraph

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