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Towards a transdisciplinary archiving methodology for mental health: piloting a ‘time capsule’ of pandemic mental health for now and the next crisis

Can looking back promote better mental health in times of crisis? In the seemingly unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19, people turned to representations of epidemics past to make sense of the ‘new normal’. The so-called Spanish flu hit the pages of newspapers and magazines a century after it devastated the globe; It’s A Sin, about the AIDS crisis, drew tens of millions of viewers; at least one bookshop in Japan had to ration copies of Camus’s The Plague to a single copy per person.  

This project responds to that turn to the past for meaning and security at a time of enormous pressure on mental health. It aims to develop a transdisciplinary methodology for archiving experiences during Covid-19 and a prototype ‘time capsule’, in order to model a low-cost, reproducible, and therapeutic practice of engagement with the past which communities can use to build back better mental health both now – and in the next crisis, whether pandemic, war, or climate breakdown. 

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter