‘We’re all in this together’: Woodstock Museum sharing COVID-19 pandemic stories

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There are items and images that became symbols of the COVID-19 pandemic, but what a new exhibit at the Woodstock Museum sought to do is capture experiences and shine a light on how the community handled a challenging time.

“There’s a great story,” explained museum curator Karen Houston relaying one of those experiences. “60th anniversary married and how all the people on their level of the building left gifts outside their door.”

The exhibit is called “COVID Stories.” Houston said, along with the heartwarming tales, there area also stories of struggles.

“New moms that are at home with a new baby and this is a time you want support,” she said. “That’s hard.”

The exhibit captures the early months of the pandemic, from early 2020 to mid 2021.

“It definitely had an, ‘We’re all in this together’ theme,” said Houston. “That’s what a lot of the short stories talk about, or just how much they miss their families or how much these things are really hard on people.”

There are letters, pictures, and even samples of masks that accompany the stories.

Because the collection of materials was completed just as vaccines were being rolled out and restrictions were being lifted, what isn’t captured is the angst, anxiety and anger that became part of the pandemic experience.

The catalyst for this exhibit was past experiences where individual stories of events like World War I and the Spanish flu were lost, “…because everybody just wanted to forget as soon as it happened and it all got sent away.”

The hope is the material compiled for this exhibit will offer insight for historians 100 years from now.

The other exhibit launched on Family Day focuses on the contributions of Sikh residents to Canada and the Woodstock region.

Houston said the planning for that exhibit started last year.

“We were thinking about the fact that we knew there was a large population from South Asia that were coming to Woodstock,” she said.

The Sikh community is currently in the process of building a temple on Oxford Road 17 in the northeast part of Woodstock, where a large number of new homes are owned by Punjabi and Sikh residents.

The exhibit is called, “Sikhs in Canada,” and it details their history in Canada dating back to 1809, and provides a timeline of contributions right up to present day.

The COVID Stories exhibit will be on display until May 27.

The Sikhs in Canada exhibit will run until April 29.

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