COVID-19 collecting at State Library of Queensland

The ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt for many years to come in Australia, and its rapid spread across the world in 2020 will leave a lasting legacy. For Queenslanders, the outbreak of COVID-19 certainly represents a unique chapter in our state’s colourful story. As the custodian of Queensland’s history and cultural memory, State Library has been working to collect and preserve COVID-19 material, as it is important to record for posterity the profound impact of the virus on our lives and livelihoods.

Roadside traffic sign, advising of the border control operation during the COVID-19 emergency, 2020. Photographer: Leif Ekstrom. (John Oxley Library collection)

At present, State Library is working with several photographers and film makers across Queensland to record scenes of social distancing and isolation, and to capture many aspects of life under the threat of coronavirus, including retail closures, empty public spaces and supermarket shelves, and repurposed factories. Filmed interviews are also capturing the stories and experiences of essential health care workers, patients, students and educators, business owners and workers, and others affected by the spread of the virus.

Social distancing sign on the arbor at South Bank during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photographer: Josie Huang. (John Oxley Library collection)

We are also archiving websites containing COVID-19 information, in order to capture the way state and local governments, businesses and community organisations have responded to the crisis, and to preserve a rich record of how we all communicated and supported each other in this very unusual year.

In addition, we have called out to the Queensland public to donate physical ephemera such as signs, posters and flyers, as well as emails containing COVID-19 information, which they may have received from clubs or groups to which they belong.

Just as we look for old photographs and documents to comprehend the scope and gravity of the Spanish flu pandemic one hundred years ago, future generations will be able to access this COVID-19 material to gain a greater understanding of the impact of the virus on us in 2020, not only on our economy, our education and health systems, but also on our cultural life and personal relationships.

Find out more about how you can contribute to State Library’s COVID-19 collecting efforts:

For further enquiries, go to our Ask Us enquiry service.

Robyn Hamilton - Lead, Collection Building, State Library of Queensland

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