The coronavirus pandemic is a monumental event in our lives, and as such it will certainly have its own place in textbooks and museums – so much that several museums around the world are already starting to think about the best way to tell this page of mankind’s history to future generations.

A picture of a social distancing bubble drawn on a street
Several museums are starting to ask themselves the question of how they will add the pandemic to their collections © Kristine Tornquist / Wien Museum

The Wien Museum, for example, started the Corona Collection Project looking for objects that will help tell the story of the pandemic in Vienna, trying to answer the question of “how will we look back on this time in the coming years, decades and centuries?” As of now, the project has received more than 2000 photo submissions – pictures of signs and masks and bottles of disinfectant. All of these objects will then be collected once the social distancing measures are over and will become a permanent part of the Museum’s collection.

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The Director of the Wien Museum, Matt Bunzl, said that his favourite object among the many submitted until now is the crocheted plushie of the coronavirus molecule. “I find it extremely interesting from a cultural and historical point of view,” he said. “It shows that we live in an age where we all have at least a rudimentary understanding of molecular biology. It thus signifies a great development; in the times of the plague and cholera, for example, the pathogen could neither be imagined nor depicted”.

A picture of a crocheted plushie of a coronavirus molecule
The plushie of the coronavirus molecule is not only a toy but a symbol of how our perception of science has changed throughout the centuries © Monika Oesterreicher / Wien Museum

London’s V&A Museum has also started a similar editorial project titled Pandemic Objects. Its aim is to reflect on the new meaning and purpose that everyday objects have taken during the coronavirus outbreak, because “a host of often-overlooked objects are suddenly charged with new urgency.” At the moment, the project is focusing on three main things – streaming services, Google Street View and home-made signs.

Home-made signs are especially of interest to the V&A, and the Museum has recently published a call-out for signs created during the outbreak. “These signs have become a prominent way for us to communicate with the outside world during the lockdown,” said the V&A in a statement, and the Museum is looking to add them to its permanent collection after a careful review of the submissions from its curators.

A shot of the façade of the V&A Museum
Among the several museums starting to build up collections about the pandemic is London's Victoria and Albert Museum © lapas77 / Shutterstock

Several other museums have started similar projects, like the Cologne Museum in Germany or the Smithsonian Museum in the US, and if you’re interested to learn more about them you can check out their official websites. The links to the Corona Collection Project and the Pandemic Objects, for example, are here and here.

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