Covid-19 and Creativity

a list of websites, articles, projects displaying adaptation and resilience in response to the pandemic

Herewith a bevy of links for your work and spare time. Many of these websites are rabbit holes of wonderfulness and you can easily click on just one link and find yourself, hours later, somewhere entirely new. This spring and summer have been well, not unlike a rabbit hole of pandemic related adaptations and resilience and news too often horrid. Among all this however, have been some pretty tremendous conversations; some not new but being broadcast in new ways and with new intensity; some calls to action being met in small and big ways. As with any crisis it turns out to be the small kindnesses or creative actions which make a larger impact.

For me, this summer’s V&A Culture in Crisis online discussions have been brilliant in bringing together a variety of small and large project coordinators from fairly diverse global locations. Many of the key points from these have focused on combining wellness and heritage in our daily work practices which is not a new concept but perhaps more relevant at the moment. 5-6 October they are hosting another two sessions which you can still register for here. These are basically money-back-guaranteed FREE conversations I promise you will get something out of and not be the least bit tempted to multitask.

Additionally, the Association for Critical Heritage Studies, with genius capabilities and superhuman participation, moved their 5-day conference entirely online, complete with advance screenings of recorded presentations, thereby reserving the live sessions for Q&A entirely. Brilliant as we all know, the Q&A are always the best part of any session. The keynotes were poignant and action filled. Karen Salt is just a huge intellect and compassionate human whose work draws from threads of the real and esoteric. The next conference is in 2022 to be held in Santiago de Chile and it is my sincere hope that they will also make presentations and Q&A available online for those who might not be able to attend in person.

I will also just shout out congratulations on the launch of a new information and network and research hub for things Central Asian: The Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs which promises to be a source for topical research and information going forward.

Here I’m also including an update on a recent trip by IICAS’ Anastasiya Stepanova out to Khiva, UZ: Featured photo this month is a snippet of the archives from archaeologist Nariman Yusupov now being digitised.

Мой рассказ: 16-17 сентября мы посетили команду, которая находится в Нукусе и представляет Каракалпакский научно-исследовательский институт гуманитарных наук. Отделение археологии этого института владеет уникальным архивом, собранным в результате исследований на территории Каракалпакстана и Хорезма. Это подчас дикие земли, на которых остались свидетельства древних цивилизаций. Много десятков лет здесь работала знаменитая Хорезмская экспедиция, множество самых именитых археологов Центральной Азии. Нас встречал тим-лидер Вадим Ягодин. Мы не только посмотрели письменный архив, но также ознакомились с находками, которыми с гордостью может похвастаться этот институт: керамика, антропология, нумизматика, ювелирные украшения и многое другое. Кроме того, мы посетили музей и реставрационную мастерскую.

17-18 сентября мы побывали в Хиве, где нас встретила Гавхар Дурдиева, тим-лидер хивинской команды. Мы осмотрели рабочий архив Наримана Юсупова, который хранится у Гавхар Дурдиевой. Он археолог, который работал в Хорезмской экспедиции, и сейчас мы бы хотели оцифровать его рукописи.

И конечно, у нас было два чудесных вечера, чтобы насладиться нукусской рыбой и прогулкой по ночной Ичан-кала. Такие поездки позволяют нам не только усердно работать, но и замечательно отдыхать.

My story: On 16-17 September, we visited a team located in Nukus and representing the Karakalpak Scientific Research Institute of the Humanities. The department of archaeology of this institute owns a unique archive collected as a result of research on the territory of Karakalpakstan and Khorezm. These are sometimes wild lands, where the evidence of ancient civilizations remains. The famous Khorezm expedition, many of the most eminent archaeologists of Central Asia, worked here for many decades. We were met by team leader Vadim Yagodin. We not only looked on the written archive, but also got acquainted with the finds that this institute can proudly boast of: ceramics, anthropology, numismatics, jewellery and much more. In addition, we visited a museum and a restoration workshop.

On September 17-18, we visited Khiva, where we were met by Gavkhar Durdieva, the team leader of the Khiva team. We examined the working archive of Nariman Yusupov, which is kept by Gavkhar Durdieva. He is an archaeologist who worked on the Khorezm expedition, and now we would like to digitize his manuscripts.

And of course, we had two wonderful evenings to enjoy Nukus fish and a walk along the night of Itchan-Kala. Such trips allow us not only to work hard, but also to have a wonderful rest.


An article from Calvert Journal on an fundraising campaign last April – apologies for not seeing this earlier but still worth reading and see links in the article to artists and photographs we should all be following as well as other more recent articles on arts in the region during the pandemic.

Another article from Calvert Journal on Russian photographer Arseniy Neskhodimov winning the Wellcome Photo Prize.

UNICEF blog piece on youth voices during the pandemic: ‘Adolescent girl from Moldova explores how art is influenced by COVID-19 and how it might change the world around us.’ By Iulia Cabacenco.

A Hundred Years on the Steppe – my translation of a novel by the Kazakh author Bayangali Alimzhanov. Posted on September 17, 2020 by Jonathan Campion’.

If you are in the UK or interested in how the lockdown here changed the ways we consumed cultural content (ha…all these lists are only one result) Creative Industries conducted and published a study.

‘Online Exhibition | The Silk Road Follows: Musical Instruments on the Silk Road-Part One Plucked Stringed Musical Instruments’: by Original Culture Research Institute Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Peking University. They are publishing new bits every week so it pays to follow via the QR code.

UCL Institute of Advanced Studies has put their recent talk pieces online: ‘Welcome to our podcast series in which we invite academics and commentators from the arts, humanities and social sciences to reflect upon life in the time of coronavirus.’ Hours of wonderfulness awaiting you here.

If you need some inspiration you will certainly find some with Gaylene Gould who ‘creates imaginative spaces to think, feel and heal’.

An utterly joyous and contemplative film from the perspective of a travelling hard drive brought to my attention during the ACHS2020 conference is Sunrise with Sea Monsters by Myles Painter.

Fascinating project about the social life of a beespoon and our relationship with bees and the honey they produce.

100 Histories of 100 Worlds in 1 Object is an excellent response to the BBC’s earlier A History of the World in 100 Objects and importantly recentres the social life of an object through ‘a project that aims at writing new object histories with the ultimate goal of addressing broader questions that concern the role of museums in the multicultural societies of tomorrow.’

Not exactly, art, but the art of wellness: You Can Heal Your Life: The self-help genre has become a booming American export, and a precarious stand-in for mutual aid and mental health resources. By Erica X Eisen and includes a discussion of these issues in contemporary Kyrgyzstan.

Another slightly older, but still relevant, article on artists’ response from Creative Boom…click out to the home page for newer explorations and enjoy!! And a September 2020 interview with Gandhara Connections’ Peter Stewart.

One to review and watch out for next year is the FemAgora Central Asia festival – another online adaptation to our world this year. Read the review and then click on the link for what happened this year.

Matthew Traver wrote a terrific travel piece with brilliant photography on The mystery of Central Asia’s ‘desert kites’ for BBC.

Another travel piece, this one about a traveller, by Stefan Applis on Ella Maillart in Bukhara – A woman travels through the Soviet Union in 1932.


This series of articles was published in 2019 and is so relevant for anyone doing research or interacting in Central Asia. These are the voices of researchers and the researched from, begin the series with ‘When your field is also your home: introducing feminist subjectivities in Central Asia.’

Well, and just the start of this conversation: ‘ “COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future” – Field Work in the Time of Coronavirus‘ by the Max Planck Institute.

Heritage Research channel on YouTube…uploading videos before Covid and still at it…some insightful discussions to be seen here.

Disconcerting news on the demolition of historic buildings in Samarkand from

Sada Mire’s talk, hosted by the British Academy: Global Perspectives: How can archaeology help us to navigate a divided world?. While her research focus is on Horn of Africa, the conflicts, lessons, and research approaches can be applied to other regions.

We cannot resist anything to do with the Sogdians, so a Smithsonian Institution online exhibit is just fab!

Excellent and important conversation for anyone working on China: Black voices in the China space podcast.

An insightful discussion on YouTube hosted by Erica X Eisen ‘on Doing Politics in/with Collective Bodies, featuring medievalist Marybeth Ruether-Wu, historical researcher Alexander Wells, and musicologist Sandow Sinai. Philosopher and friend of the magazine Zoe Belinsky‘ and the accompanying article if you prefer to read.

UNESCO has had several online programmes this year but check out these two very different conversations for a start: The Flight of the Condor and discussion bringing ‘together thought leaders to discuss key issues relating to tourism, heritage management and COVID-19‘.

VIRAJITHA CHIMALAPATI of George Town World Heritage Incorporated, also a key participant in ICCROM’s response to Covid-19 with discussions and links to projects and how the culture/heritage sector has been working through the pandemic.

ICCROM has also had an entire series on Heritage in the Times of COVID.

The fascinating and enraging (and just sad) loss of our world at What is Missing?

As you know, I’m a big fan of so here are two more gems on reviving Indigenous traditions and the pandemic in the Phillippines and among the Zapotec in Mexico.

YouTube presentation by Rani Singh on Silk Road Geoculturalisms. She spoke at the ACHS2020 conference so it is wonderful to see other presentations from this year made available online.

Lots of interesting resources at Heritage Digital.

BOOKS (becuase we need to interact with actual paper once in a while)

DeSilvey, Caitlin. 2017. Curated Decay: Heritage beyond Saving. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. And a publicly available recorded discussion with Professor Lowenthal just before he passed, referencing Shakespeare, Marx, and Hirst, just to prove these concepts span both time and forms of expression.

Hansen, Valerie. 2020. The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World and Globalisation Began. New York: Scribner. A terrific conversation between Valerie Hansen and Peter Frankopan at the Chealsea History Festival is still available online until 11 October…a great introduction to the book and discussion between these two historians.

King, Matthew. 2020. Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire. New York: Columbia University Press. An interview with the author by Aimee Dobbs of CESS.

ACADEMIC RESEARCH TO WATCH (not necessarilly Covid-related but I perhaps found out about by attending conferences moved online and which i would not have attended irl.)

Douglass, Kristina. 2020. “Amy ty lilin-draza’ay: Building Archaeological Practice on Principles of Community.” African Archaeological Review 37:481–485. ‘One of the promises of modern archaeology is its potential to reveal insights about the past and to communicate these insights in ways that allow modern society to benefit from historical human experience. Ironically, however, archaeologists themselves do not always practice what they preach. The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly turned the nail on its head. It is forcing archaeologists to urgently consider the concept of resilience in the present day, as it relates to their profession, students, research projects, cultural heritage, and the livelihoods and well-being of the communities with a stake in the sites they study.’

PhD project by Shuqi JIA at University of Leiden: ‘The Long Arab Conquest of Central Asia: Urban Change in Merv, Paikent, Balkh and Samarkand (651-821). This PhD research aims to trace the impact of the Arab conquest, both immediate and long-term, on the material and social organization of Central Asia from 651 to 821 through an “urban change” perspective in four cities: Merv, Paikent, Balkh and Samarkand.’

Research project with Gabrielle van den Berg at University of Leiden: ‘Turks, texts and territory: Imperial ideology and cultural production in Central Eurasia. Turkic nomadic rulers established large empires in the Middle East and Asia between the 11th and 14th centuries. This project will explore the link between their political ideology and the production of art and literature, via the cultural heritage of five cities along the Silk Road: Kashgar, Samarkand, Ghazna, Tabriz and Konya.’

Long-term research on Ghandaran texts at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München: ‘The Buddhist Manuscripts from Gandhāra project has been designed by Stefan Baums (Munich) and Ingo Strauch (Lausanne) and developed together with Jens‐Uwe Hartmann (Munich) and Harry Falk (Berlin). It consists of three areas of research (‘Gāndhārī Literature,’ ‘Gāndhārī Language’ and ‘Database’) and two phases (2012–25: editing of source texts and building of the database, and 2026–2032: completion of the Dictionary of Gāndhārī and preparation of a Historical Grammar of Gāndhārī, Paleography of Kharoṣṭhī, and History of Gandhāran Literature and of Buddhism in Gandhāra).’

Embedding Conquest: Naturalising Muslim Rule in the Early Islamic Empire‘, an ERC funded project 2017-2021 led by Petra Sijpesteijn. Check out their cleverly titled blogs Eyeopeners!!

‘The new Invisible East programme at the University of Oxford’s Oriental Institute brings the medieval Islamicate East to the forefront of historical research by studying these local texts. Led by Arezou Azad.

Remembering Extinction is a research program exploring how narratives of species extinction and recovery from near extinction are constructed, perpetuated, and put into practice.’ Project led by Dolly Jorgensen, another great one of the ACHS2020 conference.


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