British Columbia

B.C. museum creating collection of COVID-19 pandemic artifacts for future generations to study

Exploration Place in Prince George, B.C., is putting together a collection of artifacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for future generations to learn from.

Masks, hand sanitizer, COVID denier artifacts all part of the exhibit

Things that became important to British Columbians during the COVID-19 pandemic will be part of a collection at the Exploration Museum in Prince George, B.C. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

In the same way we look back on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, comparing, for instance, our face masks to theirs, future generations may, one day, wonder how British Columbians fared during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

To that end, curators at the Exploration Place museum in Prince George, B.C., have been gathering items specific to the pandemic, things like hand sanitizer and masks, as a way of preserving this moment for future generations to study. 

"COVID is having an impact worldwide. There's no question it's having an impact in northern B.C.," museum CEO Tracy Calogheros said.

"One hundred years from now, some future director will actually have immediate, first person artifacts and images to work from when they try to tell this story."

A museum employee displays hand-knit face masks featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s famed 'speaking moistly' phrase, one of which she sent with a letter to the prime minister and one of which she’s given to the museum. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

It's not just the day-to-day items that we've become accustomed to that the curators are after, but also things that could only exist in a pandemic world; souvenirs of events that never happened, proof of our shift to doing everything online and memorabilia in honour of B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. 

The curators have requested empty vaccine vials and boxes from Northern Health and are looking for photographs and decorations from drive-by graduations and birthdays

Mr. PG centrepieces meant for the cancelled World Women's Curling Championships demonstrate some of the hardships and disappointments faced by locals. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"It's those things that might just look like a beat up pan but when you bring that to us and tell us that every night you and your seven-year-old beat on this drum to encourage  front-line workers, that makes that pot suddenly really important to the story that we're telling," Calogheros said. 

Curator Chad Hellenius said people often bring old items to the museum asking if they want it, but they don't know the story behind the item. 

"That's what we're interested in .... collecting the stories They're collected through objects, but it's the stories that we're really interested in."

It's important to Hellenius that they don't focus only on preserving items that showcase people who follow public health advice, but also find items from people who have taken issue with the pandemic and orders from government officials

"What we strive to do as well is collect as much, as many pieces, of the various stories that are happening," Hellenius said. 

Curator Chad Hellenius is gathering items from all aspects of the pandemic to help future generations understand what life was like in northern B.C. during COVID-19. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

He hopes to collect vandalized signs and other artifacts that show the distrust some people have had over the past year. 

"I think that's just as important a piece of the picture. A lot of people don't realize there were anti-mask demonstrations in 1918."

The museum doesn't have plans to display the exhibit yet but hopes to display it once the pandemic ends. 

With files from Andrew Kurjata


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