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The Museum of London wants to capture your Covid dreams

photo of a taxi driver using an A-Z map to sleep against the window of his cab

A sleeping taxi driver in Lime Street, City of London, c. 1990.

The Museum of London wants your Covid dreams

Museum collecting and curation has reacted in many innovative ways to the Covid pandemic – from photography and art projects, to the saving of objects that encapsulate and record the extraordinary times we are experiencing.

But the Museum of London is taking a different tack by attempting to capture Londoner’s Covid dreams.

The Museum says COVID-19 has brought about many changes to Londoners’ lives, not just in the day to day, but also in relation to how we sleep and dream. According to a survey conducted by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI in June 2020, the anxiety, stress and worry brought on by the global COVID-19 crisis is not limited to daytime hours but has affected our sleep and dreaming minds as well.

The Museum of Dreams based at Western University in Canada is helping with the project seeking to collect the dreams of Londoners by recording testimonies of dreams from the pandemic.

photo of an embroidered nightdress

Man’s night shirt, circa 1581-1590. © Museum of London

an old embroidered valentines card

Valentine’s card, circa 1851-1875. © Museum of London

Guardians of Sleep is the first time that dreams as raw encounters and personal testimonies have been collected by a museum and Londoners are asked to register their interest to take part by January 15 2021 by emailing info@museumofdreams.org

The project team is collecting the dreams in the form of oral histories as part of the museum’s ongoing Collecting COVID project, but also to explore what insight dreams might offer into mental health and ways of coping with external stresses, especially in times of crisis.

“Collecting Londoners’ dreams in their own words not only allows us to document a key shared experience from the pandemic but also helps stretch the definition of a ‘museum object’, by adding dreams as raw encounters and personal testimonies to our permanent London Collection for the very first time,” says Foteini Aravani, Digital Curator at the Museum of London.

“Traditionally, when museums have collected dreams it has been in the form of artistic impression, for example, paintings or drawings influenced by the events, however, this can often dissociate the dream from the dreamer. Instead, as part of Collecting COVID, we will collect dreams as first-person oral histories with the aim to provide a more emotional and personal narrative of this time for future generations.”

photo of a small bed

This miniature bed is taken from the attic servants’ bedroom of the dolls’ house originally owned by Lady Anne Blackett. Circa 1770-1800. © Museum of London

Men's nightgown or banyan made of Spitalfields or English silk dating to the 1730s with a high collar and wide straight sleeves.

Men’s nightgown, or banyan, made of Spitalfields or English silk dating to the 1730s. © Museum of London

The foray into the capital’s mental and emotional wellbeing takes inspiration from Sigmund Freud’s description of dreams as the ‘guardians of sleep’ where dreams are seen as night watchmen helping to preserve the integrity of our mind, guarding over our capacity to articulate experiences in our own terms.

“Here dreaming is understood to be a symbolic process that helps us work through the struggles we face in our waking lives,” explains Sharon Sliwinski, Creator of the Museum of Dreams based at Western University in Canada.

“This new research with the Museum of London as part of their Collecting COVID initiative, aims to provide a rich resource for further understanding the significance of dream-life as a mechanism for working through social conflict and how the pandemic has affected the human condition.”

Guardians of Sleep will take place in February 2021 with members of the public invited to speak about their COVID dream-life experiences with a member of the Museum of Dreams network: an international team of trained scholars from the ‘psychosocial community’.

The conversations lasting approximately half an hour and conducted virtually over Zoom will then be considered for acquisition by the Museum of London as part of Collecting COVID for their permanent London Collection.

Butterick pattern, number 3303, to make a ladies nightgown or pyjamas in size 14

Butterick pattern, number 3303, to make a ladies nightgown or pyjamas in size 14. Circa 1963-1967. © Butternick Company Ltd/Museum of London.

To volunteer to participate in the study, or to find out more details, members of the public should contact info@museumofdreams.org by January 15 2021.

The Collecting COVID project, first announced in April 2020, is an active collecting project that seeks to reflect Londoners’ lives during the time of the COVID-19 crisis in order to keep a record to ensure future generations of Londoners will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period.

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Museum of London

London, City of London

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