This week on the Secret Library, Librarian Louise Birch introduces an exciting new collection for the Local and Family History library. This collection is launching as part of Local and Community History Month.
It’s hard to imagine a time when we won’t remember what it felt like to live through Covid 19 and the impact it had on our lives and our city, but, as time goes on, we will start to forget the details of how we adapted and worked round the effects of the virus. Working from home, home schooling, socially distanced shop queues and the enormous digital and volunteer networks that sprang up, in some cases overnight, to support the vulnerable and the isolated: the details of these will begin to fade as life moves on into a new normal.
Here at Leeds Libraries Local & Family History department we have a responsibility to collect materials that will reflect this time period in Leeds: the way communities have come together, how local business have adapted, and the outpouring of support for our NHS staff and keyworkers. The aim of the Lockdown Leeds 2020 collection is to build a resource for the future – if we don’t record it now, future generations won’t remember it later.
We have partnered with commercial properties group CEG, who are aiming to collect stories from as many people as possible through their new Covid Diaries project. Open to all, the Covid Diaries site welcomes submissions in a variety of formats, including written and video diary entries, blogs, social media posts, photos, artwork, poems and songs.
So what exactly are Leeds Libraries looking to collect? The simple answer is that we want items that complement our current collections. Posters and Banners are just the start: we are launching this collection with the Posters for the People banners and to this we have added the Keyworkers & NHS Thank you poster, commissioned by Chapel Allerton Spaces as a way for businesses and individuals to show support to our essential workers.
Leeds Libraries have a huge collection of Maps showing how the city has changed and grown since the first map of Leeds in 1560; today, we want your Covid related maps – like the one from the Food Aid Network showing the locations of independent food banks across the city. We also manage Leodis, the premier archive of historical Leeds images. So, photographs of this moment in time are of particular interest to us – especially ones showing local posters, notices or signs. If you are a lover of reading or creating zines, anything relating to life in lockdown Leeds would be a welcome addition to our one-of-a-kind Zine reference collection, which you can read more about here.
We also want to know how our local independent businesses have been affected. Has the way you’ve shopped changed? This sign outside independent gift shop Chirpy, showing how one business changed its approach to survive the circumstances, and the handwritten notecard included in a Northern Monk Brewery delivery, are both perfect examples of the local Ephemera we want to add to our collections. Any community magazines or newspapers produced during this time would also fit perfectly.
The Local and Family History Library is here to help people research and find out about the city and its people: donating your items allows us to keep our collections relevant, reflective and accessible to all. If you’re not sure your item is relevant, get in touch with us anyway; it may be your item is perfect for the collection of the Covid Diaries site, or other local heritage organisations such as the West Yorkshire Archives or Leeds Museums and Galleries. Either way, we are happy to help.