Looking back: Coronavirus in the Countryside – Rural Museums’ Responses to Covid-19 and Lockdown

As we continue our series of posts, looking back on our October 2020 Conference sessions, this event explored three case studies that supported and inspired delegates to manage the changes wrought by Covid-19 on our day to day practice.

Chris Copp of Staffordshire Archives and Heritage presented ‘Lockdown Memories’: creating a lasting record of the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown measures and how they affected the lives of Staffordshire people. Megan Dennis of Norfolk Museums Service shared ‘Keeping Volunteers Engaged’: supporting volunteers at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse during the pandemic. And Fay Bailey of Shropshire Museums Service contributed ‘Opening up at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm’: the practicalities of re-opening an open-air museum post-lockdown.

This session was hosted by Dr Ollie Douglas, Curator at The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading.

Chris Copp is Senior Museums Officer at Staffordshire Archives and Heritage. He has over 25 years’ experience of working in museums, initially in Leicestershire, but mostly in Staffordshire. Until 2017 he was based at Shugborough and managed the collections and displays at Staffordshire County Museum and Shugborough Park Farm. Having since relocated to Stafford he is currently working on the development of the new Staffordshire History Centre and is Secretary for the Rural Museums Network. @CoppCJ

Megan Dennis is Curator at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Norfolk’s rural life museum, part of Norfolk Museums Service. Following a degree in Archaeological Sciences, and a research Ph.D. Megan developed knowledge of archaeological collections and practical excavation within public-facing organisations. She later created and managed museum learning programmes in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. Since 2008 she has been Curator at Gressenhall. Her responsibilities include development and management of collections and management of a team of staff, trainees and volunteers. Recent projects include a Skills for the Future trainee programme and Voices from the Workhouse £2 million re-development project. @CuratorMeg

Fay Bailey is Service Manager of Shropshire Museums. Her twenty-four years in the heritage industry have taken her to Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, English Heritage and latterly Shropshire Museums Service where she managed the learning, marketing and audience development teams before taking on the role of Service Manager.

Dr Ollie Douglas has worked at The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, for over a decade where his role focusses on curation, interpretation, management, research access, and public engagement. During this time, he has both led and participated in numerous projects that have sought to reimagine rural heritage and museums in a range of creative ways. He sits on the Committee of the RMN and the Folklore Society. He is currently President of the ICOM-affiliated International Association of Agricultural Museums. @OllieDouglas

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