COVID-19 and Material Culture

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Social distancing, trying to slow the spread of COVID-19.  This shift has meant more time is spent online, reading the news, connecting with friends, family, and, for many of us, working.  I have noticed this effect of being plugged in more than usual, slight head aches and just all-around digital drain. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful to be able to work from home and connect with loved ones – the digital age has allowed us to maintain these connections. 

For museums such as ourselves, digital content is keeping our audience engaged while our doors are closed; as you know our annual exhibit has been postponed until next year although we are able to offer a glimpse of what is to come through our online exhibit, Displaced Persons of Oshawa.   This exhibit is an example of a “community curated exhibit” where the story of the exhibit is shaped by the stories told through the voices and objects of our community members. 

COVID-19 and Material Culture

Our latest project, Documenting COVID-19, is asking our staff and community to document the pandemic’s effects during their everyday lives.  Being a curator, I have been thinking about the pandemic’s impact on our community, our households and what kind of objects represent this chapter in our lives, recognizing, for some this may also be a time of loss… the loss of loved one, the loss of a job, and so much more.

For those of you that may not be comfortable writing about your experience – think about the objects that represent your time living through this pandemic. What objects represent the pandemic’s effect on your household, workplace or community (not the computer or cell phone – we already know the importance of technology during this time).

If you were a museum curator, what objects would you collect to tell your story of living in Oshawa during COVID-19?

Below, I have shared a few objects and images that I feel represent my time during the COVID-19 crisis, fortunately with my family who is healthy and at home, and what it is like in out in the community.

I invite you to share images of your objects and assist me from home as “community curators” and curate your own “at-home exhibit” about living in Oshawa during COVID-19 and share them with me through email .  I encourage both children and adults to contribute and submit images of objects. 

With your permission, these objects/images may become a part of a future community curated exhibit documenting Oshawa during COVID-19 through the voices, photographs and objects of those that lived and experienced this unique time in our lives.  This is not an exhibit that will open right away once the museum is open as this material may not be of interest or wanted as soon as we are all allowed outside of our homes. 

This material will assist us in developing themes, and build a collection that represents what living in Oshawa was like during the COVID-19 pandemic reflective of the community who lived through it.

Published by Oshawa Museum

Since 1957, the Oshawa Museum has been acquiring and preserving for the public, records that trace Oshawa's rich history from its earliest settlement. Our collection includes historical information on Oshawa, its families, businesses, social organizations and many other areas of interest. Included in the collection are photographs, documents, scrapbooks and other Oshawa related memorabilia. In addition to making Oshawa's historical inforamtion available, our staff also provides lectures, presentations, conservation work and research assistance.

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