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Seven chairs represent COVID-impact stories

COVID-experience exhibit at Nanaimo library July 28 to September 16, 2022. | Exhibit opening Thursday July 28 at 6 pm.

Saturday July 23, 2022 | NANAIMO, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


A travelling exhibit commemorating seven lives impacted by COVID-19 is coming to the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch of Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL).

From July 28 to September 16, visitors to the downtown Nanaimo library can experience COVID in the House of Old and learn about seven Canadians who either died or were severely impacted by COVID-19 while living in long-term care.  

“This exhibit aims to give a voice to the thousands of Canadians living in long-term care who were silenced and suffered through the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Professor Megan Davies, health historian at York University and the exhibit’s creator.

long term care, worker
In BC, frontline workers in long-term care and acute care received the COVID-10 vaccine first, as well as long-term care residents.

Pandemic timeline:

The pandemic began ramping up in January and February 2020. By March 2020 there were daily news conferences on progress of the anticipated pandemic.

The World Health Organization declared a COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2020; in BC the COVID pandemic was officially declared on March 17, 2020, putting BC into a State of Emergency for over a year.

BC health, COVID-19, Premier John Horgan
Provincial COVID-19 response update by Premier John Horgan, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry in Vancouver on March 6, 2020.

“Thousands of vulnerable Canadians lost their lives to this virus and countless more were left isolated, terrified, and effectively trapped not only by the virus itself, but by a system that let them down.” 

Particularly in the first year of the pandemic, long-term care homes generated the majority of COVID-19 deaths, due to shared air in a communal living environment. It took a while for BC public health to articulate the airborne aspect of the SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19) virus; blunt measures like banning social visits were applied in the early stages of the pandemic which led to mental and emotional stresses which are having long-term impacts for many.

The COVID-19 is in its third year now. The Omicron variant caused a significant wave in January-February of this year. A further Omicron mutation called BA.5 is expected to generate a seventh wave this fall. | See BC Centre for Disease Control COVID information.

Seven symbolic chairs:

The exhibit’s website describes COVID in the House of Old as follows: “Seven wooden storytelling chairs sit at the heart of the COVID in the House of Old exhibit, speaking to seven lives indelibly altered by the pandemic’s spread through long-term care. Each individual, represented by a chair, stands in place for hundreds or thousands of Canadians who faced similar circumstances.” 

virl, exhibit, covid
From July 28 to September 16, 2022, visitors to the downtown Nanaimo library can experience COVID in the House of Old. [VIRL]

The exhibit opens at the Harbourfront branch on Thursday, July 28 at 6 pm with a live discussion with Professor Davies, Lisa Marie Barron, MP (Nanaimo-Ladysmith), VIU Nursing Professors Piera Jung and Marti Harder, and Connie Paul a Registered Nurse with Snuneymuxw First Nation. Visitors should note that the exhibit deals with illness, suffering and death.  

Impact of the exhibit:

“I had the opportunity to see this exhibit for myself and I knew we had to bring it to VIRL,” says Dalia Levy, Librarian at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library.

monk office

“As difficult as these stories are to hear, they have the potential to affect change and to highlight significant inequities and gaps that exist within our health and social systems,” says Levy. “I am so thankful that Professor Davies and the other speakers are taking time to speak directly about these important but often overlooked issues.”

sooke fine arts show, 2022

“If you happen to be in Nanaimo for the opening or any time the exhibit is running, I encourage you to come and experience it for yourself,” she says. 

More information about the opening event and the exhibit, including a link to the COVID in the House of Old website, is available at https://virl.bc.ca/event/exhibit-opening-covid-in-the-house-of-old/

===== RELATED:

Search the Island Social Trends COVID section for more background.

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The Island Social Trends online news portal covers news of South Vancouver Island with BC and national perspectives, including news of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL). With a socioeconomic lens we look at a range of stuff that matters.

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