THANKFULLY, pandemics are rare. The current Covid-19 outbreak has seen everyone’s world turn upside down and the long-term effects on health, society, the economy and politics are as yet unknown.

However, as unprecedented as this situation is in our lifetime, history is a great reference tool and we can look back to moments which hold parallels with today. One such moment was the Spanish Flu in 1918-19, which has been extensively researched over the last few years by Museums Worcestershire as part of the Worcestershire World War 100 project.

The Fashioning Peace exhibition currently on display at Hartlebury Castle tells the story of the end of the First World War and touches on the flu’s impact.

There was no real defence against the Spanish Flu, made more difficult by limited medical knowledge at the time. Washing hands and using rudimentary face coverings was the main advice, but unfortunately many families would not have had access to good sanitation at that time.

As late as the 1950s, a report showed that only 46 per cent of households had a bathroom, 15 per cent of households had no water heating appliance, and seven per cent had no piped water.

Many households would have used wash basins and jugs to keep clean during the Spanish Flu pandemic. This rather ornate example from Worcestershire’s collection is finely decorated with a gilded design of birds – most households would have used a much plainer version.

Newspaper clippings from Worcestershire Archives show us how public spaces were dealing with the problem, including the spraying of ‘antiseptic’ throughout a theatre.

The shortages of certain grocery items in 2020 were also experienced by the masses in 1918 – but in their case it was Bovril and not toilet rolls which were going short.

Beyond the snippet of insight these clippings give us, there are not many tangible remains of this terrible period, and few eyewitness accounts.

Little exists in our collections to show the true extent of the damage it inflicted on a population already struggling to come to terms with four years of war.

In another hundred years' time we hope that the coronavirus pandemic is a distant problem solved long ago but that the story remains present as objects and records in museums and archives, to be learnt from and reflected upon.

For this reason, Museums Worcestershire and Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service are gathering the people of Worcestershire’s items which show the impact of coronavirus, to create a museum collection for future generations.

We want to show how communities are coming together, businesses are adapting to survive, children are responding and front-line workers are coping.

This might include home-made face masks or scrubs, pictures of rainbows or objects relating to projects looking after vulnerable people.

Residents are asked to contact Museums Worcestershire and Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service by email with details of the objects, artworks and ephemera, stories or documents and images that they are willing to donate.

If you have an object to donate, please email

We are now delighted to be welcoming back visitors to our museums, all three of which have been awarded the ‘Good to Go’ mark for their high levels of safety measures including one-way visitor routes and sanitiser stations.

Expect wonderful displays of fascinating stories, open spaces to roam, and takeaway summer crafts available for families throughout the summer holidays. Plan a visit at