Covid Conversations

What should a national collection of Covid-19 personal testimonies contain?

Supported by a grant from UK Research and Innovation, through the Arts and Humanities Research Council, we are developing a national collection of personal testimonies and in-depth reflections around Covid-19 that will be preserved as a permanent public resource for informing policy and practice and form part of a wider British Library Covid-19 collecting initiative.

Covid Conversations is a series of free, public, online events led by the NHS at 70 team with guest speakers. We hope you can join us and take part in the conversation 'what should a national collection of Covid-19 personal testimonies contain?'



Covid Conversations with NHS at 70 logo and illustrations of virus, sound wave and people talking

NHS at 70: Covid Conversations: Historians, Archivists and Curators

Watch online now!

On Tuesday 20 October we hosted the first of our online Covid Conversations to consider how best we can build a national collection around Covid-19 for use now and in the future. 

Our project director, Stephanie Snow was joined by Safina Islam, Head of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust, University of Manchester, Alex Mold, Associate Professor in History, and Director of the Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Mary Stewart, Curator of Oral History and Deputy Director of National Life Stories at the British Library who all gave their perspectives on collecting through Covid-19. 

We were delighted that over 120 people joined the event and contributed to questions and discussion through chat. Thank you to all who participated, and especially the speakers for their insightful contributions.



NHS at 70: Covid Conversations

Upcoming events - details TBC

November 2020: Health and Policy

December 2020: Arts, communities and creative responses to Covid-19


Covid-19’s social significance as a public health crisis is unprecedented in living memory and a watershed in the longer history of the National Health Service (NHS). The ways in which we live, work, and think about our health have changed profoundly and the story is not over yet. We do not know how, or when Covid-19 will pan out, but we do know that we are all actors in an historic moment.

Historians, archivists and curators have a responsibility to document and preserve these socio-cultural transformations for future generations through collecting personal testimonies, objects and ephemera. The collecting process can play a vital part in helping individuals and communities to make meaning from their lived experiences as well as creating resources for now and in the future.

There are many silences, gaps and missing voices in existing collections/archives, and we know that our historical interpretations are limited by this. Our aim is to build a diverse and representative collection of Covid-19 personal testimonies across the four nations of the UK that will serve both the present and the future. So how do we choose what to collect?

• What testimonies from individuals and communities will best represent the uprooting of our daily lives, express our individual and collective trauma, and highlight the appalling health inequalities highlighted by the virus?

• How do we capture the rapid response of the NHS and the science community alongside shifting patient, staff and public attitudes to the Service?

• What place should the unexpected upsides of innovation, human resilience and fortitude have in a collection?

• How can the history of past pandemics inform our preservation of the present?

• And what are the ethical considerations of collecting in the midst of the pandemic?