Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Museum staff preserve province's first COVID-19 vaccine vial

Museums are in the business of collecting rare, historical objects like mummies and dinosaur bones. But its work also happens in real time, as evidenced by the Nova Scotia Museum's acquisition of the first COVID-19 vaccine vial used in the province.

'I think Nova Scotia saw a lot of hope with the first vaccination,' says museum director Laura Bennett

Laura Bennett, Nova Scotia Museum director, says the vaccine vial is a significant acquisition in the story of the province's COVID-19 battle. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

A tiny COVID-19 vaccine vial is injecting big excitement in Nova Scotia's museum world.

The bottle contained the first COVID-19 vaccine administered in Nova Scotia last Wednesday, as people across the country started receiving the first doses last week.

The glass bottle is now the property of the Nova Scotia Museum and serves as a permanent record of how the province battled the coronavirus pandemic, said museum director Laura Bennett.

"There was only going to be one first, so we knew pretty clearly that this was worth collecting," she said. "Knowing that we are able to document what is really a turning point in Nova Scotia, this fight against COVID-19, is something really exciting."

The vial will be cleaned of any potential residue from the vaccine — manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech — and will be tucked into an archival bag and kept in the collections storage facility.

Bennett says preserving the vial is part of the museum's mandate of representing the stories of Nova Scotia. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

It's anticipated the bottle will eventually be showcased in a display to help educate people about vaccines, and could be part of a future exhibit about pandemics or massive events that changed the planet, she said.

Museums are in the business of exhibiting rare historical artifacts such as Egyptian mummies or shoes from a child who died in the sinking of the Titanic.

But its work also happens in real time.

There's a movement within the museum world toward what's known as rapid response collecting, said Bennett.

For the provincial museum, decisions are made based on whether the item tells a Nova Scotia story, captures the public interest and is newsworthy, and has provincial significance.

It's a tricky job deciding what's worth keeping now with the hope that it will hold significance decades from now for future generations looking back.

A Halifax nurse became the first Nova Scotian to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 16, 2020. (Robert Short/CBC )

"It's a lot of guesswork and we hope that we get it right, you know, sometimes we do have missed opportunities," she said.

The decision to collect the first COVID-19 vaccine vial, however, was an easy one, she said.

Bennett said the vial bottled up a feeling many people are craving.

"I think Nova Scotia saw a lot of hope with the first vaccination and the first administered dose, and so they're quite pleased to see that documented," she said.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at elizabeth.chiu@cbc.ca.

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