Coronavirus: Changing Work Practices
I’ve been developing numerous new sessions over the last 18 months, designed for seasonal delivery from May onward this year (some of which are, for example, listed on my teaching website, here). These events were to be made available to a range of prospective clients, for presentation at various locations (such as local & regional groups; museums & other historic sites; and at the Antiquarian Academy).
However, the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which now affects all of our lives – for many people, substantially – makes it necessary for large sectors of the population to rethink and reorganise business practices. This is particularly so where and when the work environment involves close contact: evasive action in the form of social distancing and isolation (alongside hygiene procedures) is required in order to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and so reduce the extents of severe illness and death.
Medical guidance has led to the introduction of restrictions by the UK government, requiring closure of many public venues and business premises, and where possible, transference from office- to home-based working, in order to limit travel and social contact. Reduction in services is inevitable, with these essential measures liable to significantly constrain various professions – including those within which I work. Education, research, tourism and entertainment are all affected; with closure of universities and colleges; libraries and archives; museums and other historic sites; theatres, pubs, cafes, hotels and other venues; resource retail outlets.
Services & events unavailable during the COVID-19 restrictions
I will consequently be unable to provide events or services, or engage in community work, that involves meetings and other group gatherings or travel. Research and fieldwork opportunities are substantially reduced due to inaccessible local studies and regional public record offices; and delayed and limited access to other resources and materials. To ensure the safety of communities, clients, participants, and family, as much as possible, this will continue until the relevant authorities announce that such activities are once more considered safe, and resources and materials again become available, as required.
Exactly when this unprecedented situation might come to an end is at present unknown, although current constraints will certainly be in place for several weeks, probably several months – possibly longer; medical opinion suggests that the pandemic is likely to impact society for a year or more, although how this may impact business practices in the long-term is as yet unclear. These constraints are also likely to take a toll on the mental health of many.
Services under development for delivery during the COVID-19 restrictions
It is widely recognised that culture and heritage engagement can be of great benefit to psychological and emotional well-being, as well as being significantly beneficial for audiences’ educational and professional development. It is therefore very important that, while visiting historic and other heritage sites is not possible, other forms of interaction and participation are widely available to enhance what for many are now considerably restricted environments and experiences, and stressful circumstances.
In response to these challenges, I am exploring how I might re-write some of the sessions designed for delivery at historic sites, for presentation as remote (e.g. audio / video streaming) events (potentially incorporating live home-based participation); and as audio-visual presentations and digital resource packs to view online and download. As most schools are now closed, and most parents of small children are now faced with providing for their education and occupation at home for at least several weeks, I hope to include some materials that families might do together, alongside those aimed at my principle adult audience.
In re-writing and -organising events, I aim to provide a selection of resources and events that are both ‘fun’ and educational, some potentially providing brief respite from current problems. Others may focus on ‘learning from the past’, at times approaching ‘uncomfortable’ topical subjects (such as death and disease). In this way, content and materials might both provide information that challenges misuse of history in ‘scare-mongering’, and propagating harmful ‘myths’; and generate ‘difficult’ but necessary consideration and discussion of sensitive issues. Exploring common experiences, past and present, as well as highlighting differences, might also bring comfort, and a induce a sense of control, potentially reducing anxieties by enhancing knowledge and understanding.
While as an independent educator I do not provide accredited educational courses, I am endeavouring to incorporate (optional) assessed participation within some sessions and resources, in recognition that many find stimulation and sense of achievement through evaluated learning formats; and I am working towards providing quizzes and informal competitions through which local communities might extend social networks.
Original material for the ‘Austen Age’ Time ‘Tec Taster Tournament: Seeking Sophie‘ challenge that I developed as part of the 2018 Antiquarian Academy Heritage Open Days is still available online (the resources collected together here) – which is freely open to all. I am in the process of redeveloping this activity to more easily use online mapping resources (such as Google Maps Street Map facility), and so prevent field trips. When completed, I will upload the revised version to Seeking Sophie Time ‘Tec Challenge page (on the Material Pasts Distance Learning & Family Activities page (permalinks to follow: password-access while under development).
I also hope to present free events for this year’s HOD Festival in September, presented remotely, if restrictions are still in place; and if possible the CBA Festival of Archaeology in July, likewise delivered virtually if necessary.
Availability of modified services, events and resources
I’m aware that many are suffering loss or substantial reduction of earnings; and that charities are struggling to maintain crucial support for many already in dire need. So for the duration of this crisis, I hope to make at least some of these materials freely available, with others accessible through small donations to relevant charities by audiences / participants in a position to do so (waived to vulnerable & self-isolating persons, and those on low-incomes). I’m also looking into presenting more exclusive ‘virtual visiting lectures’ directed at families and households, remote-working businesses, and other groups; with all and any profits donated to relevant charities.
These revised services and resources will necessitate the acquisition of new skills; their production is therefore likely to take longer than I would wish. Although I have been exploring the provision of digital resources, such as tours, for some time; and over winter had been looking into providing digital workshops, craft packs and other resources; this has primarily been based around site visits. But I’m working as quickly as possible to get to grips with new approaches – and consequently different technology – so that I might make these available soon. Keep checking back here, and on social media, for updates (and / or join the mailing list).
Please let me know (using the contact form) if you are prospectively interested in any of these events, services and / or resources, so that I might direct my (limited) energies in the most efficient and beneficial way.
Best wishes to all at this difficult time.