Archivists are compiling a unique record of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the people of York - and they want your help. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

HOW have you been coping with life in lockdown, and the stress of living through a global pandemic?

If, like many people, you’ve been keeping a record of your life - whether in a journal or a blog, on video or in photographs - then the Borthwick Institute would like to hear from you.

The institute, based at the University of York, holds documents detailing hundreds of years of York’s history.

But it believes the times we are living through now - a global pandemic that has hit in a modern age of mass communications - are unusual enough to be of real interest to historians and researchers of the future.

So it wants to create an extensive archive of York’s experiences during the pandemic.

It is particularly important that that archive should be created here in York because the city had the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, long before the disease really spread widely around the world, says Gary Brannan, the Borthwick’s Keeper of Archives.

Those first cases were back in late January, when two Chinese people recently arrived from China who had booked into the city’s StayCity Hotel near the Barbican were confirmed as having the virus.

They were taken to a specialist disease unit in Newcastle. But confirmation that they had the disease led to investigations at the University of York, where one of the patients was a student, to see if anyone had come into contact with them.

Both patients subsequently recovered from the disease. “But York is in a unique position as the first city in the country to have confirmed coronavirus cases,” says Gary. “We have all been living alongside this disease for several months.”

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world, Gary says. “Families and friends are separated; schools and businesses have closed down; our lives have completely changed in just a few weeks. These are unprecedented times. “

But what makes them doubly interesting, he says, is that we have all had time to think about and reflect on what is happening and how our lives have changed.

Most major events are over quickly. But this pandemic has been going on for weeks. “So people have had time to sit, and think, and create, and share how they feel,” Gary says.

By gathering together some of that output, the aim is to create a ‘lasting collective memory of York’s coronavirus outbreak which will be an important resource for researchers in the years and decades to come’, Gary says.

The Borthwick wants journals or diaries; poetry or prose; photographs; even short films or sound. “We want anything that documents how York feels about COVID-19, how it’s affecting lives, changing the city and, importantly, how people feel about this,”Gary says.

“We can accept digital and physical records, and would like to hear from all members of our community: young and old; doctors; nurses; teachers; social workers; business owners; retail workers; school students; retirees; and everyone in between.”

The institute first posted its appeal last month - and has already had a good response, Gary says.

There have been poems - including one written on a mobile phone in the middle of the night when the author couldn’t sleep - audio footage and video. One video clip simply records a journey through the centre of a deserted York. There have also been plenty of photos - including some from members of The Press Camera Club who have been taking photographs of their lives in lockdown.

Submitting your material couldn’t be simpler - just send it to the project email address below.

“Submissions will be kept by us at the Borthwick, and made available to future researchers who want to know more about York and the experience of York people during this pandemic,” Gary says.

To submit material, or to find out more about the project, email or visit