Like many organisations we had several plans for 2020 including joints events, talks, blog posts and various other projects both large and small. However, for the second time in our history we were to find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic.
As we start looking forward to the new year, we take a look back at a very remarkable year.
January & February
We started 2020 making and finalising plans for our annual stocktaking period which took place at the end of January and beginning of February.
During the closure period we helped our colleagues from the Local Studies Library rearrange part of the public space so they could insert some much needed extra shelving. Little did we realise we would be rearranging the space for a second time later on in the year.
By mid-March we found ourselves closing the doors to the public and swapping our offices for home working as we entered the first Lockdown. The corridors outside the department became deserted as an eerie silence befell the building.
As we headed into April we took to Social Media for the annual #Archive30 event. 30 Tweets and Instagram posts in 30 days and this year we also took to our Facebook page. While we had planned many of the posts before we went into lockdown, we had to change a few and find creative ways of completing others.
May & June
With #Archive30 behind us we kept up our profile by taking on the next challenge in the form of #ArchiveZ run by ARA Scotland. This time we were to do 26 posts in 26 weeks, one for each letter of the alphabet.
We also worked closely with our colleagues from the South West Heritage Trust to produce an online talk, which had originally been part of the planned Tea and Talk series for the year. Our Creative North Devon talk went live in June with a very nervous librarian in speaker’s chair! There were, as ever some last-minute technical hitches but a very successful talk was given and we are looking to collaborating on more online talks in the future.
July & August
After months in lockdown, we all pulled together to get the department ready to reopen its doors in early August. Several meetings both online and socially distanced on site allowed us to rearrange the department for a second time in a year to make it Covid-secure for both us and our visitors. lots of green and white tape was deployed along with signs, screens, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies.
September & October
As we settled back into our new Covid-secure routines we finished some of the projects started during lockdown. Assistant Librarian, Sandi researched and wrote four posts for the blog during lockdown. The first on the Birth of the NHS was published in July and was followed up with her post on Mary Seacole in October. We also marked the 80th Anniversary of the opening of RAF Chivenor in blog form instead of the joint event we had originally planned with our friends from British Military History.
No sooner had November started than we found ourselves in another lockdown. Once again, we swapped our offices for home working and we took to the blog and social media once more. Producing posts on Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Pandemics of the Past as well as taking part in the annual Explore Your Archive Week at the end of the month when our Librarian took some well-earned time off!
After what had felt like an exceedingly long year, we were on the final stretch. We were able to open for a fortnight in the run up to Christmas once lockdown ended. We wrapped up the year on our Blog with a post about North Devon’s connection to one of the most infamous murders in British history, the murder of Thomas Becket.
2020 was an extraordinary year and we are hoping 2021 will see us return to some form of pre-2020 normality. 2020 was not the first time the Athenaeum had to deal with a pandemic as we were open during the Spanish Flu 100 years ago, just as then we have learnt to adjust and find new ways forward. We would like to thank all of you for your support and understanding over the last year and we hope you all stay safe and well in 2021.