Collecting COVID

Shortlisted for the Vice-Chancellor's Research Engagement Award 2024

Oxford University’s History of Science Museum and the Bodleian Libraries have joined forces to collect the stories of the COVID-19 pandemic — and the extraordinary responses to this global challenge across Oxford University.  

Capturing and preserving history in the making — from a prototype ventilator through personal stories from the vaccine team to a Barbie doll awarded to Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert — the Collecting COVID project is telling the stories of the Oxford scientists and researchers whose amazing dedication and sacrifice has made an impact across the globe.

The Collecting COVID team includes:

  • a curator at the History of Science Museum
  • an archivist at the Bodleian Libraries
  • a freelance oral historian.

Supported by a grant from the E P A Cephalosporin Fund, we are collaborating to identify, collect, catalogue, and preserve the materials and stories for future generations.



COVID Collection

Every object tells a story


We're finding fascinating stories behind apparently unassuming objects — like this glass safety cabinet from the University's Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility (CBF) labs at the Churchill Hospital.

It was used to grow, infect, and harvest cells for the COVID-19 vaccine.

When the CBF got a makeover last year, it was initially sent for recycling to UniGreenScheme (UGS), the Welsh sustainable resourcing company. 

Luckily for us, a keen-eyed member of UGS recognised its potential significance and got in touch with the Science Museum Group in London, who in turn flagged it up to Oxford's Collecting COVID project team.

The story has a happy ending — thanks to UGS's generosity, the cabinet has found a new purpose and a permanent home in Oxford's COVID collection: the ideal backdrop to the story of how Oxford scientists worked during the pandemic and a glimpse into how laboratory equipment is sustainably managed once its work is done.


Browse the COVID collection



Meet our Collecting COVID Champions

Enthusiastic support is pouring in for this groundbreaking project from across the University of Oxford


Dr Silke Ackermann
History of Science Museum
Susan Thomas
Head of Archives & Modern Manuscripts
Bodleian Libraries
Professor Andrew Pollard FMedSci

Oxford Vaccine Group
Professor Neil Barclay
E P A Cephalosporin Fund
Dr Silke Ackermann Director History of Science Museum
Susan Thomas, Head of Archives and Modern Manuscripts, Bodleian Libraries
Professor Andrew Pollard FMedSci, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group
Professor Neil Barclay, Chair of the E P A Cephalosporin Fund

We are delighted to be working together with the Bodleian Libraries so that we can share the stories of Oxford science with the wider public and academics alike.

The sorts of materials and memories we hope to uncover through this project are surprisingly vulnerable to loss.

It is timely to start the process of gathering these things to make sure they survive to inform future research and reflection.

I am enormously proud to be collaborating with the History of Science Museum and the Bodleian Libraries, which are so uniquely placed to share the stories of Oxford science and to shine greater light on our endeavours to make the world a better place.

The Trustees of the E P A Cephalosporin Fund are delighted to award a grant to the History of Science Museum and Bodleian Libraries to support their joint Collecting COVID initiative.

The grant will enable both institutions to continue and expand their close collaboration with colleagues in the University of Oxford science faculties and departments and will ensure that the artefacts, records and oral histories from this extraordinary period for Oxford research can be made accessible to researchers and the public, furthering future science innovation and education.


Contribute to the COVID Collection
COVID-19 Vaccine sculpture