Stefan Krebs of the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH) and his team are collecting digital memories from Luxembourgers during the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Krebs, as a historian, why are you collecting images, videos and interviews for the covidmemory.lu platform while the crisis is still ongoing?"As historians, we usually deal with acts which happened at least a decade ago. However, during the crisis, we asked ourselves what we could do immediately to document the pandemic. We wanted to make a communications forum available so people could share their memories, but also see that others experienced the crisis very differently. Initial feedback said it helped a lot of people in the sense that they were able to view the crisis from a distance and see they were not alone in their experiences."
And in the process, you're creating a scientific and historical resource…"Exactly. We wanted to create an archive which researchers could use 20 years in the future to analyse everyday life during the crisis in Luxembourg."
Were Facebook and Instagram not sufficient?"Certainly, there are similar posts on social media platforms. However, it is not certain if these will still be available in 20 years!
Our archive will be available for a long time and it does not just consist of people's posts - we are seeking to complete it with a selection of blog posts, which often go offline very quickly and could be lost otherwise. We have also conducted a number of interviews with people linked to the healthcare sector, which we will make available through the #covidmemory hashtag. This allows readers to view the crisis through doctors' and carers' perspective, for example. In addition, we are looking at incorporating tweets into the archive as well.
Does this mean the archive risks showing a distorted version of events - particularly if it is based on the memories of more internet-savvy people?This has been discussed among the team before. Effectively, the site shows a more picturesque view of events, for example, the unusual quiet in the capital, rather than a full focus on those effected by illness. However, it is worth noting that history resources are always somewhat distorted. It is the role of the historian to examine how sources correspond with one another in order to create a coherent overall picture.
The archive will integrate other sources, for example our colleague Benoît Majerus and his team are carrying out interviews with staff in the health and care sectors. We are also using other published, and not-published, sources in our work. We certainly do not claim that #covidmemory can tell the full story of the crisis on its own.
What's next for the archive?We will continue to collect data for at least another year. Then the team will consider how to design a full evaluation. There are similar projects underway in other countries, with whom we are in contact and can exchange ideas for added value. First of all, we will look at developing the technical side of the platform in conjunction with FNR, in order to simplify the process in multiple languages.
The website covidmemory.lu is currently available in four languages (Luxembourgish, German, French and English).
Text: Tim Haarmann (adapted for RTL Today)
Photo: Stefan Krebs