Highlights and Goodbyes

Posted By: Savannah Sewell (MARF 2021)

Well, folks, this project has come to an end. I know, I’m sad too. It’s a funny thing to be (voluntarily) thrown into something that requires so much effort and attention for five months and then it just is… over. I am so grateful for everyone who has read the blogs, participated in the community calls and collections, and for all those who have supported the project along the way. 

I chose to use this blog as a bit of a teaser for the lecture, which will be on October 21 at 7 pm (registration opening soon!), as well as for the continued use of the collections, archives, and project. The collaborations on this project have surpassed any expectations that I could have possibly had, and the manuscript and lecture will feature stories and images that have been donated. So, here is a bit of a preview of the impactful participation that we have been so fortunate to receive over the last several months. 


Dr. Heather Patterson is an emergency physician and photographer based out of Calgary, Alberta. During the pandemic, Dr. Patterson was granted access to photograph inside of hospital and healthcare spaces to provide a lens to daily pandemic experiences. During this project, her work was featured online and after conversations surrounding where our work aligned and how useful such beautiful illustrations would be to the project, she agreed to allow her work to be used. Here are a few of Dr. Patterson’s beautiful photographs that will be included in the manuscript of The Lived Experience of COVID-19 in Canada.

When a patient arrives in the ICU, the primary nurse for that patient may spend 2-3 hours in full PPE while getting the patient settled. It can be hot and uncomfortable but is a key part of care. Here a nurse briefly stood in the doorway while an X-ray was taken. She was in the room for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Each afternoon, this man’s wife, children and their spouses, and granddaughter would call on FaceTime. While the mood was often light, sadness was in her tone, when his wife asked him to please wake up.
The ZEOC (Zone Emergency Operations Committee) group met daily at the onset of the pandemic. Responsible for coordinating the pandemic response in southern Alberta, this powerhouse group managed areas including carrying out government directive, managing issues related to vulnerable population groups, assisting in coordination of PPE, overseeing assessment and immunization centres as well as coordinating all acute care workforce issues, operative processes, and pandemic response units.


As mentioned previously, the narrative donations and collaboration for this project from the community were over overwhelming. The stories provide a wide variety of the experiences that Canadians and Canadian residents encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be helpful in the future, to give a person-first view of everyday life in 2020-2021 in Canada. Here are some small excerpts from examples of the narratives that have been included in this project. 


Miranda experienced a medical trauma during the pandemic, while participating in recreational physical activity in her own home, something we had all been encouraged to do while maintaining the stay-at-home orders. 

“Circus aerials was another of many oddball hobbies I dabbled in. I had been taking lessons off and on over the years and fell in love with one particular apparatus called the aerial hoop, which allows you to feel like an elegant ballerina on a precariously spinning circular trapeze. With gyms having highly reduced class sizes (if they were even open at all), it made more sense for me to buy one for the house I had just bought, which has ceilings just high enough to accommodate one.

“I’ll just go over the sequence of moves once or twice quickly first,” said my pea brain, “it will look cleaner if I don’t have the mat beneath me.”

It was March, and I’m too much of a wimp to climb outside in the cold. Adapting again, in the name of staying active while staying at home.

“I’ll just go over the sequence of moves once or twice quickly first,” said my pea brain, “it will look cleaner if I don’t have the mat beneath me.”

I don’t even remember what exactly I was trying to do – there was a brief moment of confusion, a second or two to think to myself “did I just fall?” while being on the floor, that was immediately proceeded by two very different but equally panic-inducing sensations in my body. The first was of an incredible fiery burning pain in my neck and back. The second was a feeling of floating from my waist downwards as if my legs were suspended in the air. They weren’t – they were on the floor along with the rest of me, and I couldn’t move them. I had only fallen about three feet.
I woke up in the ICU of London Health Sciences twelve hours later as a different person. Miranda Scott: climber, business owner, student…incomplete paraplegic, with a broken neck.”

Rudi Wycliffe 

Rudi, a retired Kingstonian, chose to create a “magnum opus” during the pandemic, featuring limericks, puns, and changing news during the pandemic. 

IN THE BEGINNING... April/May 2020
Now, sit down slowly, I’ve plenty of time
To tell you this story I composed in a rhyme
Of a strange planet at a point in history
Where it tried to deal with the covid mystery.

But there came unto this place
A creature, not from outer space,
A mutation of some commonplace
Virus, a challenge to erase.

Was it a wet market in Wuhan
That Covid first discovered man? 
And found a vector it could ride
And spread itself, well, quite worldwide

Four hundred verses are easy, compared to the task;
“Please sign this waiver”, Savannah did ask.
Attached was a file with a place for my name
I tried and I tried to send it back, in vain...

...I told her, I pleaded, this just can’t be done
(Was she being nasty or was this just in fun?)
But on the fourth try, a new file I could sign
It’s sent to her now and everything’s fine.

Now, with my approval, the museum can present
My poem and my comments about life at the moment.
Will I soon be famous, my talents in demand?
At least, for the time being, I can pretend.

*I have the honour of being featured in a few of them thanks to a complicated virtual waiver I asked all participants to fill out. It still brings me a good laugh, sorry Rudi!


Two of the largest contributors to the COVID-19 Collection were KFL&A Public Health and Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, thank you to both organizations for being so willing to provide our collection with current and important artifacts that we will continue to cherish into the future. 

Creating a collection of modern-day artifacts might not be what most individuals think of when associated with a museum. However, this collection is critical in the safeguarding of these artifacts for future research, preservation, and exhibition. Think of museum collections that you have seen in the past, such as a World War I or II exhibition, some of the artifacts might be broken, incomplete, or damaged. By creating and curating the collection now, while we are still experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, we can assure that the museum collects artifacts that are complete and excellent at representing a variety of stories of the medical and lived experience of the pandemic. 

Here are some examples: 

Royal Victoria Health Centre-COVID-19 Testing Clinic Outdoor Sign
Royal Victoria Health Centre-Empty vial of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and labels
KFL&A Public Health-Clear Plastic sealable bag “For Interdepartmental Transport of Laboratory Samples”
KFL&A Public Health-Content: sealed disposable sampling swab (Miraclean Technology Co.) and transportation tube and medium (Bartels FelxTrans)

The reason that this project and the crowdsourcing efforts that it included were so important is because of how critical it was to attempt to complete the research with as holistic of a lens as possible. Though the national representation was not as robust as we had hoped, the collection and archive of narratives will provide an excellent base for the research of the lived experience of COVID-19 at the Museum of Health Care for years to come. 

As this project is now complete, if any further participation, addition to, or use of the COVID-19 collection at the Museum is of interest to anyone, please contact the museum at museum@kingstonhsc.ca or 613-548-2419.

Special thanks to Ian M. Fraser and Janine M. Schweitzer for their generous support of the 2021 Margaret Angus Research Fellowship!

Savannah Sewell
Savannah Sewell

Savannah Sewell is a graduate of the Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto, and a proud alumna of McMaster University’s Anthropology Department, holding a Honours Bachelor of Arts. Savannah’s previous experience varies from numerous archaeological projects, both locally and abroad, through exhibition creation and design with the Canadian Language Museum, to an internship in Marketing and Communications at the Aga Khan Museum. She is an excited emerging museum professional with a passion for community and accessibility to museums and their critical role in understanding the past and navigating our future

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