What Remains?

Temporality and Pandemic: Stories and the Public Sphere

Project by JoAnne McKay

Dumfries has experienced pandemics before. The most notable are those from modern history: cholera in 1832 and 1848, and influenza in 1918 and 1919. Why? Because of what remains – written words and built environment; newspaper records and memorials. Yet even these pandemics are all but gone from mind and public discourse. My intention is to research the extent and nature of what remains from these earlier pandemics in our public archives and museums and in our civic and sacred spaces, and to look at accessioning practice in relation to the current pandemic.

Through the research I want to:

  • create a collated textual/visual archive of material from the previous pandemics;
  • uncover gaps in our knowledge of these previous pandemic experiences, leading to ideas of what should be preserved now – and to an exploration of how;
  • use records of the past to support and encourage people to consider their own experience of pandemic in 2020, to then tell and record their own histories and stories.
  • creatively respond to the research through my own new writing and that of others, and develop ways of presenting it to the wider public.

In essence, the orientation and perspective that historical context, rooted in place, can give us: a plumb line to the now.

For information about JoAnne, visit our Participants page.

Plague Doctor Mask, Dumfries 2020.