How many objects did the Museum acquire? Can you describe the variety and what guided your decision-making?
We ended up with 75 acquisitions, but many were made up of more individual items. Collecting at Auckland Museum is already guided by research and collection development policies, as well as considerations regarding storage and preservation. But because of the potential volume of material we were dealing with, we developed and implemented an additional Covid-19 Collecting Strategy to sit alongside our usual checks and balances to ensure we weren’t overwhelmed.
Nina: Because I work with documentary heritage collections, I was absolutely delighted that we were offered several journals and diaries. While we all very much lived in a digital environment over that time (Zoom I’m looking at you) people also seemed to be drawn back to the analogue. We received some wonderful examples ranging from a visual journal illustrating each day’s key numbers and messages to a food diary documenting one woman’s struggle to feed herself on a limited budget during self-isolation. These kinds of things offer such intimate glimpses into an individual's experience against the international Covid backdrop so they are really valuable documents.
Lucy: There was a lot of craft that came in, which reflects the creativity that came out of this period for many people. There is also so much of the makers’ lives - their work, their neighbourhoods, their emotions - woven, often literally, into their artworks, which made them particularly personal and precious; things that could only have been produced at that moment in time and in each of their individual circumstances.
Perhaps the best known craft work that came in was the felt hat made by the comedian Chris Parker, which he decorated with familiar icons of pandemic life in New Zealand, and documented on Instagram.
We were also given a set of beautiful hand-knitted puppets, or ‘Fence People’, which were placed on the donor’s front picket fence. The maker knitted one for each day of lockdown, to help mark the passing of time, and placed it on the fence. The puppets became a focal point for the neighbourhood, with children coming to look at the latest one and leaving suggestions for the next one in the letterbox, and other locals donating wool for the project. So these objects really encapsulated the community spirit that was building in Auckland’s streets over that period.
For others, making things was a very individual experience that helped them process and get through a difficult time. We have a cardboard light sculpture made by an artist with the only material he could bring home from work and designed in the shape of the microscopic coronavirus; a model house built using newspaper coverage of the virus and objects found while the maker was walking in the neighbourhood; a decorative mask made from a coconut shell because it reminded the maker of her home in the Pacific Islands; and we have a mask made from a camisole by an international university student who couldn’t find any masks in the early days of lockdown.
We also have some wonderful things which show how Auckland’s streetscape was transformed, such as photos of children drawing on the streets and of the Stand at Dawn Anzac services, and rainbow-coloured street stickers for social distancing designed especially for the K’ Rd area. We were given a number of big banners, which had such a big visual impact on our city streets, bearing messages encouraging people to be kind to each other and even announcing ‘happy hour’ to the neighbours!
Others reflect the difficulties that some communities had with people not following the rules, such as at Piha, where locals had to make a number of banners asking Aucklanders to stay away from the beach during lockdown.
Crochet dolls of Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield. Donated by Kathy O’Keefe. Collection of Auckland Museum 2020.49.1.