Summary of activities to do from home in 2020

Due to the international Coronavirus pandemic, the HCV is active virtually, making use of the online environment and emails until further notice. 

Are you looking for historically-focussed things to do while distancing yourself from social gatherings, or in quarantine? Here some suggestions:

Contribute to public archives that aim to leave a legacy for future historians

A Journal of the Plague Year: An archive of COVID19

The Melbourne History Workshop invites you to document how COVID-19 has affected your life. Share your story in text, images, video, tweets, texts, Facebook posts, Instagram or Snapchat memes. Include screenshots of the news and emails—anything that speaks to paradoxes of the moment. This global project was initiated by Arizona State University on 13 March 2020. Endorsed by the HCV, the Journal is a way of helping communities understand the extraordinary as well as the ordinary aspects of this pandemic. In the future, historians will be also able to use this record of daily life to understand better the changing nature of our lives.
Go to:

Memory Bank - COVID-19 community collecting

State Library Victoria announced on 6 April 2020 that it will collect posters, flyers and mail-outs that are appearing in local neighbourhoods across Victoria in response to the pandemic. This ephemeral material will help tell the story of this moment in time for future generations. Such material can often be discarded but provides invaluable information about this significant event impacting our community. On 27 April, SLV launched its Memory Bank project, a long-term collecting project that invites you to share your everyday observations of pivotal moments in time. The Library calls on all Victorians to help archive what everyday life in Victoria is actually like now, during this time of collective isolation. 
Learn more at:

Bridging the Distance

This Facebook project was launched by the National Museum of Australia on 6 April 2020. The NMA is collecting stories, objects, images and video to explore and mark this time in a joint effort with the community, 'to help make sense of what is happening around us and to connect us all socially and emotionally, while we are physically distant'.

Dear Australia

On 10 June, Australia Post announced a national letterbox to which you can send a letter to share your experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible Dear Australia letters will be preserved for future generations by the National Archives of Australia. The project aims to enable all Australians to record, share and preserve their impressions of this remarkable time. The letterbox is open until 18 August 2020.
Learn more at:

Make a difference, by joining a community that's organising and improving online historical resources

Help correct the scanned text of historic newspapers and create lists etc. on Trove, the National Library of Australia's repository of full-text digital resources and platform for aggregated information and metadata.

If you manage a collection of heritage items in Victoria, add information about them to the Victorian Collections database. 

Contribute images and captions to the visual feast that's being archived under the Twitter hashtag, #museumsunlocked. This is described by its creator, Professor Dan Hicks from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, as 'a lockdown project on museums and heritage'.

If you manage the collection of an Australian historical society, back up your collection by creating a physical or digital time capsule. Follow the Local History Backup instructions at:

Listen to podcasts about history

There are now many history-focussed audio programs that you can hear via the internet (using a computer or other device), or via a smart phone.

There's a great list of podcasts at: Their programs cover many the history of parts of the world, not only the history of Australia.

Visit an online exhibition

As restrictions ease, the larger cultural organisations are preparing to admit visitors, but many smaller venues cannot re-open yet because their premises do not allow for adequate social distancing. Many organisations have been active online during the period of closure, publishing new information and resources. Visit the websites of your favourite worldwide GLAM organisations (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) to see what they are offering. Search for ‘online exhibitions’ or ‘virtual exhibitions’. Many organisations are also uploading new activities designed for children and students.

Here are links to a number of online Learning Resources, provided by major Australian cultural organisations.

Internationally, don’t miss:

Explore the resources of the Federation of Australian Historical Societies

Start at:

There you can access past eBulletins and Newsletters, packed with updates from historical societies across the country. The FAHS website also holds other resources of relevance to historians and people interested in history.

Catch up on your reading of books by historians

Although most public lending libraries are currently closed, many bookshops (including second-hand booksellers) will take orders online or by telephone, and will deliver by post. 

Which history texts have you enjoyed lately? Visit our Facebook page to share your recommendations for the benefit of all.  

Host or join an online activity that brings history-focussed people together

Many book groups and reading circles have shifted their face-to-face meetings to a videoconference format.

Some historians have launched online projects using social networking services such as Facebook or other online tools - for discussion, learning and new research.

Here are some examples: 

Stay @ Home Festival - curated by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, this Festival offers lectures, a bookclub, writing challenges, and masses of wonderful activities for children and the young-at-heart - all with a history twist.

Shut Up and Write/Create - online WebEx sessions for individuals writing history or creating history (be it artwork, a musical score, choreography planning, and so forth).

Women in Gippsland's History and Women of Walhalla (both are Facebook projects and part of Women's History Month, March 2020).

Make history at home

If you find that you have some spare time available, make use of it to arrange your personal records and photos, and share your own histories. A free ‘how to do your own history’ series of five short videos is now available on YouTube, presented by historians Dr Susan Marsden and Sandra Kearney for the Marsden Szwarcbord Foundation. You are invited to share photos and history links via Make history at home on Facebook ( and Instagram at #mszfMakeHistoryAtHome

Reflect - are we learning from the history of pandemics?

In 2019, one of the Making Public Histories seminars focussed on 'Death, disease and pandemics'. Those who attended emerged much better informed about Australia's past responses: to the Spanish Flu of 1919, the terror of polio, and the AIDS crisis.

Australian historians are now sharing more widely their perspectives on historical pandemics. Here are some recent articles that should encourage readers to reflect on the lessons of history:

Sharon Betridge, 'We've been here before', History News, no. 348, June 2020, p. 14.

Geoffrey Blainey, 'Complacency lulled us into delusion', The Weekend Australian, 21-22 March 2020.

Janet Bolitho, 'Staying at home - then and now', Port Places, 7 May 2020.

Frank Bongiorno, 'How Australia’s response to the Spanish flu of 1919 sounds warnings on dealing with coronavirus', The Conversation, 22 March 2020.

Debbie Cuthbertson, 'What we can learn from Victoria's Spanish flu outbreak of 1919', The Age, 22 March 2020.
This article includes an interview with Mary Sheehan, professional historian and one of the speakers at our 2019 seminar.

Greg Gerrand, 'Quarantine and the Little Red Bluff', Such was life blog, State Library Victoria, 27 April 2020.

David Griffin & Justin Denholm, 'This isn’t the first global pandemic, and it won’t be the last. Here’s what we’ve learned from 4 others throughout history'The Conversation, 17 April 2020.

'Lest we forget'Australian Story, ABC TV, 1 June 2020.

Mary Sheehan, 'Were these the good old days?', Living Histories website, 12 March 2020. 

For a light-hearted take on the historical relationship between disease, social distancing and fashion, we recommend this short video from the USA version of The Conversation.

Take a moment to endorse the importance of history!

Read and endorse the Value of History statement that was published last year by the four History Councils in Australia.

And finally...

Can you recommend other activities that we could add to the above list? Please get in touch!

If you have suggestions that would assist the HCV in its work during these extremely challenging times, please contact us.

And just for fun, here's a topical and spine-tingling short story, cleverly created in 65 words across 27 titles and published by Dymocks bookstore in Canberra via their social media accounts on 13 April 2020.

Short story by Dymocks bookstore in Canberra


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