One year on - reflections on COVID-19 in a Museums Victoria showcase

A digital snapshot of stories collected across the suburbs of Melbourne in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diana with her knittingWhen Diana Pullin heard that she could use her passion for knitting to help people who were sleeping rough or struggling, she didn’t hesitate to spread the word to others in the Cherry Tree Grove Retirement Village in Croydon.

Diana and her friends contributed hundreds of knitted items, ranging from scarves to blankets, to Maroondah City Council’s Knit One Warm One initiative. For Diana, knitting was a way to pass the time and stay connected to her community during COVID –19 restrictions.

One year on, Diana says contributing to the initiative helped her to remain positive in what she describes as an unusual time. Diana said “it was a blessing as it connected everyone in the village, people who had never met before were able to meet and a shared economy started, with people sharing books and food by passing it around within the community, we really connected and helped each other”.

Stories like Diana’s are featured in a digital showcase curated in collaboration between Museums Victoria and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions’ Office for Suburban Development. The One Year On – Stories of COVID-19 in Melbourne project invited Melburnians to share stories of their lived experiences during the COVID-19 restrictions. These personal accounts of Melbourne in lockdown have preserved a piece of Victoria’s social history for posterity.

Across town in the north-western suburbs of Melbourne, Kofi Aden is preparing for a busy day of school, excited to be back in the classroom with friends and looking forward to a game of basketball after school. As the family of five gets ready for the day ahead, there are smiles all around as they reflect on how different their days look compared to a year ago.

 Kofi and Abdi wearing a mask looking though a book. At just 13 years of age, Kofi Aden has made a lasting impression on the resilience and recovery of the Victorian community with his gratitude journals. Kofi’s daily reflections became a daily reading ritual for not only Victorians but people from across the world, after they were first published on the Kindness Pandemic Facebook page, a platform for community to share messages of kindness and hope to spread positivity during COVID-19, which was founded by Dr Catherine Bennett.

The Aden family has a rich history of community service with Kofi’s father Abdi Aden providing guidance and support to the Victorian Somali community throughout the pandemic via his video messages about the importance of getting tested for COVID-19 and mask wearing. “I saw my dad helping and I wanted to share my journal and help make a difference too” said Kofi.

For Kofi, the journal was a way of helping him focus on the things he was thankful for. “It was an opportunity to remember all of the positive things in my life each day. I am thankful to everyone who read my journal, it brightened my day and gave me a new way of thinking about things.”

Museums Victoria curator Catherine Forge says the digital showcase is preserving moments from this time in history for future generations to reflect on. “This project gives a unique perspective to the pandemic and is something very different because the majority of media and stories shared during the pandemic were about numbers, beating the curve and the virus. We wanted to create something deeper than that and share real moments in time from real people living these experiences.”

“The pandemic has forced us to go digital which is actually a huge silver lining as it has made accessibility easier for people who are nervous about coming into the city, they can easily engage and enjoy the digital showcase online. It takes away barriers for people living regionally and people who may have disabilities and also provides a global platform for these stories,” said Catherine.

The popular digital showcase is attracting attention from around the world with a sense of community pride ensuring it’s shared far and wide on social networks. One Year On will become part of Museum Victoria’s permanent Collecting the Curve COVID-19 pandemic collection.