The coronavirus pandemic may have caused a significant number of changes to the daily lives of people around the globe but it is also having an impact on our sleep it seems. Like anything that looms large in life, the Covid virus has also entered the subconsciousness of many people and it is coming out in their dreams. At least, that is what at team at the Museum of London think which is why they have set up a digital version of an oral history project to record what people are seeing in their dreams in relation to the pandemic.
The Guardians of Sleep project at the museum is currently asking people who live in the UK capital to get in touch so that they can share the dreams they have experienced during the public healthcare emergency. A team at the Museum of London has been working cooperatively with the Museum of Dreams at Western University in Canada in order to bring the project to fruition in the capital. According to Foteini Aravani, who is the Museum of London’s digital curator, the project aims to record and tell the story of ordinary Londoners throughout the pandemic so that future generations may better understand it.
Altered Experiences, Altered Sleep
Aravani said that one of the first things that occurred, almost immediately after the UK-wide lockdown was imposed in March, was that sleep was affected. She went on to add that she wanted to capture the experience through altered sleep patterns because she thought that the pandemic was not simply impacting negatively on the waking lives of Londoners but also their subconscious states, too, something that could be explored through sharing dreams.
It is thought that the Guardians of Sleep project is the first time a museum has attempted to use dreams as the raw material for a collection of personal testimonies. However, the project does not stand alone and is part of the museum’s wider work on the pandemic’s impact on the city, known as Collecting Covid. Specifically, the project aims to reveal something deeper about the mental health of Londoners as they have all searched for ways of coping within the context of the crisis.
A Public Project
The Museum of London is still looking for participants to take part in the project and to make their contributions. People who reside in the capital are invited to speak about their viral dreams until February 2021. Those applicants who are chosen will be interviewed by a member of the Museum of Dreams’ network, a group of academics with experience in psycho-social matters. Anyone who is thinking about discussing their subconscious with the network will be expected to give up about half an hour of their time over a video conference call. Each of these conversations will subsequently become a new acquisition within the permanent collection of the Museum of London.
The Role Of Dreams
Sharon Sliwinski, an interdisciplinary scholar behind the Museum of Dreams, said that the partnership that had been forged with the Museum of London took some inspiration from Sigmund Freud’s memorable way of describing dreams as so-called guardians of sleep. She went on to add that, in this context, the dreams that Londoners were revealing could be viewed as night watchmen which help with the preservation of the mind’s integrity. According to Sliwinski, dreams stand guard over our ability to articulate what we have experienced in our own terms.
According to one academic, Dr Valdas Noreika, a psychologist at Queen Mary University in London, the museum is right to focus on what dreams can tell us. He said that there is already plenty of evidence that the crisis altered many people’s sleep patterns which also meant the contents of their dreams have changed. “For instance,” he said, “People report greater use of words relating to anger and sadness.” According to Noreika, the project will also likely reveal the frequency of things like contamination and cleanliness in Londoner’s dreams.
Interested in contemporary collecting? That’s one of the subjects that we’ll be discussing in the MuseumNext Digital Summit and our speakers include the Museum of London’s Foteini Aravani. Find out more about the event and get your tickets here.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.