Like everyone else in the world, when we left our offices over a year ago in March 2020 we thought we would be back to work as usual in a few months. How wrong we were. As we rapidly adapted to a new and unprecedented way of life our curatorial team recognised that we were all living history and it was important to document our experiences.
During the initial lockdown in April 2020, we launched United Together a crowd-sourcing project aimed at collecting electronic mementos of people’s experiences as our community grappled with the coronavirus pandemic. As we were more remote than ever, history and culture helped keep us together.
This digital archive documents the varied experiences of living in Bermuda during this time and will tell future historians how the pandemic shaped our lives and how as a community we withstood the challenges a global pandemic has presented. The images submitted fit into five main areas: Everyday Life, Virtual Community, and Learning, Public Health and Frontline Workers, Art and Activities, and Environment and Landscapes.
Over a year later and we are still managing the impact of the pandemic both locally and globally with future impact yet to be determined. In light of the toll the past year has had on our community and as this year’s heritage month theme is “Bermuda Resilience”, we thought we’d take a look at a few of the images submitted last year that reflect some of the events and experiences of 2020 and how our community managed the challenges of COVID-19 in Bermuda.
The first confirmed cases of COVID-19 appeared in Bermuda in March 2020 and kickstarted a chain reaction of events and decisions which would impact our daily lives. The airport and schools were closed and public transportation services were suspended. On island testing commenced and as more cases were recorded further restrictions were implemented to prevent community spread of the virus. Residents were advised to use face coverings in public to slow the spread of the virus and many submitted images of themselves either wearing masks or making them.
New restrictions and social distancing guidelines were implemented into local shops and alphabetical shopping days or online delivery became a necessary normal routine. This image submitted by a member of the Museum’s Curatorial Team documents some of the early social distancing restrictions and signage implemented in local grocery stores, guidelines swiftly changed from 3 to 6 ft with better understanding of transmission.
Virtual Community and Learning
As schools closed, students, teachers, parents and guardians moved to “remote learning”, navigating new digital learning platforms. The Museum team developed new content for remote learning, creating lessons for P6 and M2 and our At Home with History programme to assist and support educators as they pivoted to online learning. Additionally during shelter in place many used online platforms to keep connected with one another, from virtual happy hours and quiz nights to virtual fitness groups. All of the images submitted illustrate the increasing role that technology played in education and keeping us connected with one another.
Public Health and Frontline Workers
The efforts of our frontline workers in healthcare, national security, and those that manned and maintained our essential services were central to our success during this period and numerous images have been submitted documenting their diverse experiences of the pandemic from the frontlines.
Numerous businesses “switched gears” to support the community and our frontline workers. Lili Bermuda for example started making hand sanitiser using alcohol that would have normally been used for making perfume. All essential services were using it including grocery stores.
The community’s appreciation for our frontline workers was evident in the numerous thank you signs that appeared throughout the island.
Art and Activities
Many people looked to art and other activities to stay busy during lockdown or help alleviate the unseen impact of isolation and the stress of the pandemic. Activities like painting, drawing, gardening, poetry, sewing, jigsaw puzzles, music, and baking all became popular activities to pass the time and find moments of relaxation and reflection during these stressful times.
Environment and Landscapes
As the island locked down and residents sheltered in place, businesses were forced to shut, tourism was brought to a standstill and many were unable to work. Streets and public spaces that would have normally been a hive of human activity instead became empty and eerily quiet. The economic impact of the pandemic is still yet to be fully realised and the images submitted documenting closed businesses and empty public spaces and landscapes represent much more than the impact on the physical environment during a lockdown but also the effect of a pandemic on the economy.
It has been a hard year and we have all felt the impact of the pandemic in varying ways. With vaccination programs in place globally, hopefully, we will begin to move to a new post-pandemic world. However, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the past year and be mindful of the toll that this virus has taken on us as individuals and as a community, especially with the devastating reality that lives have already been lost and are still at risk.
Our community’s resilience in a time of global unease is something that is rooted in our cultural heritage and the Museum’s collection has a number of objects that reflect moments of resilience throughout our history. We will continue to collect objects and images that document and preserve these moments of resilience for future generations. Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting historical objects of resilience from our collections which shed light on individual and community acts of resilience over the past four centuries.