Birmingham Museums Tell Birmingham’s Pandemic Story

23 June 2021

Rosie Barker, Birmingham Museums with Life on Lockdown display_photo credit Emma Trimble_2

Hundreds of photos and videos that tell Birmingham’s story during the Covid-19 pandemic have gone on display at Thinktank Science Museum.

The Life on Lockdown project began in May 2020 when Birmingham Museums Trust began collecting digital images and recordings of first-hand experiences to reflect the lives of Brummies during lockdown. The aim was to keep a record of the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure that future generations could learn about this extraordinary time.

From Big Issue sellers on empty streets to the rise in food banks, and from babies born in lockdown to socially-distanced visits to grandparents, the experiences of Birmingham during the Covid-19 crisis can now be seen in the Life on Lockdown display at Thinktank Science Museum. The Life on Lockdown film can also be seen on Birmingham Museum’s YouTube channel.

Rosie Barker, Senior Engagement Officer at Birmingham Museums Trust said: “We felt it was important to capture Birmingham’s pandemic story for future generations to help us understand how the city dealt with such an extraordinary time and major moment in history.  

“It’s very easy when we are all experiencing something like this pandemic to want to put it behind us as quickly as possible, but it’s vital that museums like ours keep a record for future generations.

“The public response to our digital collecting call-out was fantastic – the range of images, videos, stories and creativity reflect both the physical surroundings of the city and emotional response of Brummies to the pandemic. 

“It’s particularly important that we reflect the diversity of people’s experiences during the pandemic – the highs as well as the lows – and also look at whether there is a unique Birmingham experience of Covid-19.”

The new display also features artwork by renowned Birmingham graffiti artist, Gent 48 – the colourful Forward in Unity depicts the City’s NHS and frontline workers fighting back against the evil grasp of the virus and was originally painted as a mural in Digbeth. The limited-edition print of the mural was presented to Birmingham Museums as a gift to the city’s collection by Gent48 and Art4Charity and has been signed by 250 Birmingham dignitaries, as well as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer. Prints of the artwork and a book telling the story of its creation are available to buy from Birmingham Museums’ online shop.

An innovative Beard and Turban Face Mask is also included – the pioneering design was created by Birmingham designer, Sunnie Delilah, as a protective face-covering for her Sikh father-in-law who had struggled to find appropriate protection during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Additionally, the Greenway sisters’ Solidarity in Separation – three masks decorated with words, beads and stitches – are on display. The three sisters from Birmingham captured their feelings about Covid in a family project that kept them connected while lockdown kept them apart.

Originally the Life on Lockdown collecting project was limited to digital items, reflecting the voices and experiences of people’s lives across Birmingham. With restrictions now easing Birmingham Museums are hoping to collect additional physical objects that reflect Birmingham’s pandemic story. Contact [email protected] to find out more.

The Life on Lockdown display can be seen at Thinktank Science Museum Birminghammuseums.org.uk/thinktankand the film can be viewed online via Birmingham Museums’ YouTube channel https://youtu.be/CgsHRZ-d7Wk