National Museum Wales | Collecting Covid

Elen Phillips

Principal Curator of Contemporary & Community History

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales National Museum Cardiff Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3NP Wales, UK

Collections Trust Award 2021 - Commended



Collecting a Nation’s Response to Covid



Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales developed the Collecting Covid project as a response to the rapidly evolving coronavirus crisis. As a museum, we were acutely aware of our responsibility to create a national memory of the pandemic in Wales, recorded as the lived experiences of people living through this extraordinary period in our collective history.

We launched a mass-observation questionnaire on the museum’s website, to use as a portal to collect personal stories (written testimony and photographs) from across the country. A section of the questionnaire asked participants to identify objects from their homes and communities that represented their pandemic experiences, with the view of these being collected by the museum following the easing of restrictions.

Homemade sign, April 2020. Rainbows became a symbol of hope and support for key workers during the pandemic, with homes, businesses and public buildings across Wales displaying rainbows on doors and windows in solidarity. © Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales


The project was delivered under lockdown conditions, leading to an emphasis on digital collecting. We devised a way of transforming our established collections management procedures, which are normally dependent on face-to-face contact, into remote ways of working that did not compromise our ethical standards. For this, we were highly commended by the Collections Trust Award in 2021.
We wanted to ensure that the results were visible instantly. The images and objects submitted were catalogued and digitized at the point of entry. These are now available on the museumrs"s online catalogue, tagged ls"Covid-19rs". Over 1,000 questionnaire responses were received – an edited selection can be read here.

In the future, we envisage that this digital survey approach will become a key component of our contemporary collecting strategy, enabling rapid and responsive collecting – underpinned by agile collections management procedures that support this new way of working.



Black Lives Matter protest placard, June 2020. © Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales


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