In the middle of week two, working from home and staying in my family ‘bubble’, it’s interesting to look back on the experience so far. These are unusual times and everyone responds differently. Personally I found the two days before we went to Level 4 the most stressful, wanting to make sure family were sorted and okay, that my team had everything they needed to stay safe and work they could do from home. Then, settling in to the first couple of days, I was focused on ensuring check-in systems were in place for staff, family and friends who live alone. Trying to get groceries delivered to my mother in Auckland was probably the most difficult part.
One thing that’s been lovely to see, is the creativity that’s happening all around. People are making videos, writing poems and songs, posting images and photographs, creating artworks, and so on. These are being shared through social media and online. Galleries and museums are joining in and finding ways to share and reach out to people. Just this Thursday someone sent me a link to Te Papa’s digital jigsaws based on works in the collection. There will be other, less public, creativity happening in homes – from needlework and crafts through to journals and diaries.
Whatever form you choose, having some creative outlet at a time like this is very important for all our mental health. Among the many options, writing down your thoughts and experiences in a journal, be that on paper or online, has proven benefits for emotional wellbeing. It can be particularly helpful for children to have a means like this to express their feelings and experiences. For those too young to do this in writing, a picture journal is a good option.
Museums are full of personal experiences that have been captured for prosperity. Diaries, journals and stories play an important role in developing exhibitions. Examples of exhibitions that have utilised diaries and captured memories at MTG Hawke’s Bay include From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth: Hawke’s Bay At War 1914-1918, The House of Webb: a Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville and, more recently, Rongonui – Taonga mai ngā tāngata, ngā wāhi, me ngā takahanga: Treasure taonga from people, places and events. The most recent Museums Aotearoa survey showed that the Survivors Stories film is still the most popular and memorable element at the museum – this is in fact, a series of video memories. An upcoming exhibition based on freezing works in Hawke’s Bay will also capture and utilise personal memories and stories in its development and in the final display.
We hope for your own sake you’ll find the right outlet and means to express your personal experience while the country is in ‘lockdown’. We also hope that some of you will be willing to share these with the museum and allow us to capture individual experiences of this extraordinary moment in time for the benefit of future generations. This is how collections are made and is an important part of our role, which is to collect, preserve and share the memories and stories of Hawke’s Bay.
Image: Diary, Douglas Mary McKain, 1841-1872, gifted by Mrs Robina Greene, Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 
6 April 2020
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