Recording our Experiences at a Historic Moment

We live in truly historic times. When COVID-19 has faded, as eventually it will, its legacy will be with us for some time, perhaps permanently. We who have lived through it have a chance now to capture what’s happening, so that those who come after us will know how it all felt at the time. There are many schemes for doing this nationally, but it’s for individuals to record our personal experiences and observations, and those we see around us, before coming together later to present how our neighbourhoods, areas and communities have been affected.

 Rickmansworth Historical Society has joined the Abbots Langley Local History Society to support an initiative by Three Rivers Museum Trust, in conjunction with, we hope, other community groups. You will, I hope, have read about it in various local ‘news’ magazines, and each TRDC Councillor has been informed. Together, we’re asking local people, if they wish, to join us in recording their experiences – what’s happened to them, what they’ve seen and heard, at a time of remarkable changes and uncertainty. The more people, the wider the age range and the more diverse the backgrounds of the ‘diarists’ the better the contribution will be to those who will want to know, in fifty or a hundred years time, what it felt like to be involved – the lows, the highs, the anxieties, the realisms of it all.

The Museum will, later on, collect in whatever people want to submit – they have the space and the local ‘reach’ to do this, at least locally, here around Rickmansworth and Three Rivers. Everything will be logged and kept safe, and sorted: some may be passed (with the originator’s permission) to the Hertfordshire Archives, some even to the British Library. Some will used (again with permission) for a display or exhibition. And much will just be kept safely for use later by people researching this remarkable time.

So – right now, everyone is invited to take part, if they wish, in this local initiative, by keeping a diary which they might later want to pass in to provide a historic record. Much of what historians value highest is the recorded personal recollection – ‘memories matter’, and we can contribute ours to this unique situation. Nothing is too trivial to be worth recording, especially while it’s fresh in our minds – a personal story will be really important. And it includes ‘things’ – COVID-related leaflets and letters we receive, photographs, artefacts, even newspapers (although these collect themselves anyway). If they have significance for you, they’re part of the story.   

Some of what’s recorded will be deeply personal and, especially where people we love have been lost, very painful; but these memories will be the more important for that, even if not for public sharing. So just how we bring all this together later needs more work, which we’re now doing, and that will cover how it’s published at some later date. But the first thing to do is capture what’s happening locally around us, and how we feel about it. All who wish can get on with that, while keeping it private and safe until later.

How best to do it? It really doesn’t matter – whatever’s convenient to you. It’s much more important to have the record than to make it ‘pretty’. So you might use a diary, or a notebook, or sheets of loose paper; or a computer file, or an audio recording on your smart phone, iPad or whatever. We’ll post more guidance on the websites as we think of it – the important thing is not to forget it by delaying! Photos are important too, of familiar scenes now changed, or even those which haven’t changed as they might have done.

If you’re willing to do this, it would be helpful (not essential) to let us know, so that we have some idea of what we’re lining up for. E-mail, if you can, chairman@trmt.org.uk, rick.hist.soc@btinternet.com, or leave a message (by text, preferably) on 07767 831924.

But don’t, please, send anything in yet – that comes later. For now, just record what you feel like recording. It really matters, not just to us, but to those who come after us.

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