History in the Making: Help to play your part and add your story to the West Sussex Archives

This is such an extraordinary period in our recent history with events impacting on our lives in ways that we could not have imagined. West Sussex Record Office has had to close its doors for the first time in over 70 years but our work goes on. We are keener than ever to document the history of West Sussex, its people and places and the stories of our lives for future generations.

Wartime diary of Mr William Burch of Chichester, 1939-1945.
(Add Mss 46432)

Despite the challenges we are all experiencing, we have a unique opportunity to work together and record the events that we are all living through. We are therefore asking for your help and hoping that you might like to join us and be a part of this.  Would you like to record a diary of your experience of the pandemic and how it is affecting you, your family and friends and your local community?  You could record your experiences, thoughts and feelings either on paper or on your phone as an individual, as part of a family project within the same household, as a creative outlet or simply as a daily record.

Unidentified family photograph, c.1900
(Kevis 3/80)

West Sussex Record Office is joining forces with our partners at Screen Archive South East (SASE) and The Novium Museum in Chichester.

SASE look after all the moving image archives for the region and their collections cover life and leisure, work and travel and events from the 19th century to the present day.

The Novium Museum cares for a unique collection of 500,000 objects which tell the fascinating story of Chichester District and its rich heritage.

At the Record Office, we have diaries dating back over 300 hundred years. Together these collections give us a unique window into the past and bring history to life before our eyes. Help us to record this extraordinary period in our lives and add your own story to the Covid-19 Community Archive.

The New Ollerton Magazine, compiled by pupils from Worthing County High School for Girls as an account of their evacuation to New Ollerton for a period of four months, March-July 1941.

We would also like your help in collecting other material that you might come across such as:

  • Leaflets/flyers/posters from District Councils and other local government institutions about the pandemic
  • Material from local business relating to closures or changes to how they operate
  • Advice from local organisations about hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation
  • Information about community efforts to help vulnerable and isolated persons
  • Information from local schools regarding closures and home-schooling
  • Photographs which show the pandemic’s impact*

*Please note that when photographing you should ensure that anyone who may appear in the image is either happy to be photographed or is unidentifiable.

With your help we would like to build a community archive of all your diaries, and other pandemic related records, which will be catalogued, stored, and ultimately available to the public for research. In this way we can actively preserve the history of this event and its impact on West Sussex for the future.

We ask that material for deposit at WSRO should be written, printed, or digital. We are unable to accept objects into the archive.

  • Video diaries can be included as part of the archive and will be preserved and made accessible by SASE.   
  • 3D objects, and artwork such as the ‘NHS rainbow’ signs, can be included as part as the project by submitting them to The Novium. More information can be found on their website.

It is important that you do not risk your own or anyone else’s health whilst gathering this material. All government guidelines regarding hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation should be followed: www.westsussex.gov.uk/coronavirus

Please contact us about the best way to deposit physical material or transfer your digital files.

For further information, please contact Jenny Mason at the West Sussex Record Office. Email: record.office@westsussex.gov.uk

To find about more about the Record Office collections go to:


To find out more about Screen Archive South East and watch over 1200 archive films online go to:     


To find out more about The Novium Museum and their collections go to:


19 thoughts on “History in the Making: Help to play your part and add your story to the West Sussex Archives

  1. I am very happy to let you have my diary of this pandemic period. I will bring it along to you once it “ over”. This could be awhile as you are aware!


  2. I am blogging each week to capture my perspective on the impact of the pandemic upon our charity, my staff team and local people living with dementia which I am very happy to share


  3. ive just had an email from the records office about doing a diary, and im really happy to do this and like many others i will post it or bring it into the records office when the time comes for us all to get back to normal, im really looking forward to contributing my diary and maybe being able to read how people have coped with the pandemic


  4. Hello I am a member of a small local Patchwork and Quilting Group. Since our lockdown we have kept in touch with each other daily via WhatsApp, recording what we are achieving. I thought I would put it altogether in a Journal form with pictures for when this is over. Would you like it. I would bring it in when all this is over. Regards Sheila Rhodes


  5. My adult daughter with autism a d learning disability is doing this to keep her going
    It is of course very simplistic but includes things like her excitement at the weekly quiz with the day centre she normally attends which is her only social contact.Would love to tell her this could be included but don’t want to disappoint her if not what you want


  6. I have only just picked up that WSRO will be interested in diaries during lockdown. I have been keeping a daily diary since March as a desktop file on my PC. Might that be of interest to you? Brian Hanson


    1. Hi Brian! We would be interested in digital records making their way to the record office too. Our Senior Collections Management Archivist will not be able to reply to emails until Monday the 15th of June, but I recommend sending us an email after then, and we can provide further details. Thank you for your interest! – Abigail, Searchroom Archivist


      1. I have been keeping a written diary, which I can email to you once all my family get off the computer and back to work and school. Best regards, housewife, 49.

        On Mon, 8 Jun 2020 09:35 West Sussex Record Office, wrote:

        > West Sussex Record Office commented: “Hi Brian! We would be interested in > digital records making their way to the record office too. Our Senior > Collections Management Archivist will not be able to reply to emails until > Monday the 15th of June, but I recommend sending us an email after then, a” >


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