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History in the Making: Documenting Covid

Documenting the pandemic at a Pan-European level

In early 2020, the House of European History started a project collecting evidence of life in Europe during the Covid 19 pandemic, focusing on the phenomena of solidarity, hope and community building. The galleries below show a range of objects documented and donated to our collection.

A selection of these were put on display in the Fables Room of the museum from June to December 2020.

Rainbow banners ´Everything will be alright´

In Italy, people started to create banners with rainbows and this optimistic message: "Andrà tutto bene" (Everything will be alright). They hang them on their windows and balconies, communicating collectively positive thinking towards a challenging situation. These mirror the Cantonese expression "jiayou", meaning "don’t give up", that could be seen in China where the pandemic first struck.

The rainbow banners spread across Europe and became one of the most prominent sequences of words associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Pandemic borders

The freedom of movement took a hard blow during lockdown. Forgotten borders were reinstated and many Europeans found themselves separated from their families. The inhabitants of border towns reacted with creativity, artworks and silent protests against this limitation on the freedom of movement.

Fundamental rights under lockdown

The European-wide lockdown sometimes meant a limitation of fundamental rights. But people found ways to make their voices heard.

Creative response

Making and enjoying art played a major role in the lockdown experience. Children and adults expressed a variety of feelings through drawings, poems or music. Through school and study projects they documented their everyday life. Other art works were created to support their friends or family members.

Medical staff: the new heroes

From the very beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, healthcare workers have been on the front line. In hospitals, as in the care-giving sector in general, many workers paid for their jobs with their lives, often due to insufficient protective equipment. Nurses and doctors are depicted literally as the new super heroes of our troubled times.

Solidarity in Practice

The outbreak of the Covid 19 crisis will be remembered in connection with short supplies of protective material, not only for the wider public but also for medical workers. Lack of masks, suits and other protective equipment caused dramatic situations in many European countries. Across the continent, these emergencies inspired citizens to step in and give help on a voluntary basis in order to offer remedies as quickly as possible.

Pandemic Soundscapes

How did Europe sound during the coronavirus pandemic? What connects the lockdown experience across the continent? This sound composition created by Mara Maracinescu features 21 distinct recordings from 17 European countries, made between March and May 2020 during the first European COVID-19 lockdown.

The main purpose of the research and resulting composition was to trace the impact of the lockdown on European soundscapes: new rituals or types of gathering that appeared; changes in the ambient soundscape, due to lower traffic, or the amplified presence of the State’s voice, for example through loudspeakers.