One year of COVID

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

January 25 – 29, 2021

Today, the news reminded me that it was one year since the announcement of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in our area. I also learned that the government extended the current state of emergency for another two weeks. As I am typing this, it is the day after #bellletstalkday and its initiatives for mental health awareness. I have been reflecting throughout the past year, of course, but this seems more apropos. No one knows how much longer we will be dealing with COVID-19, masks, quarantines, online learning, and work from home efforts, so I thought how I would share some ways in which I have been coping.

My first line of defense during any stressful situation is to retreat to bed. Sleep. Glorious sleep can make anything go away for a few hours – assuming that one can fall asleep without worries plaguing (pun somewhat intended) their dreams. Something I have found especially beneficial is my weighted blanket. Before receiving one of the best gifts my husband has bestowed on me, I knew of the benefits of compression therapy and weighted blankets. If you are not a believer, I dare you to try sitting under a weighted blanket for just a few minutes and see how relaxing it is. I’ve had my blanket for a few years now and am very thankful I’ve had it during this stressful year.

Another item that is always close by is my iPad tablet. Working from home is a challenge for everyone who has to do it, but that challenge is compounded by slow internet speeds and poor connectivity. In the early days of the lockdown, Museum staff met every day at 10 am over Facebook Messenger. For us, this is the easiest way to stay connected to one another when we can’t be in the office together. However, like most families, mine is making do with what electronics we have at home. My old laptop doesn’t have a webcam. Enter the iPad or phone. Again, like many homes I’m sure, we are working with a combination of antiquated and ultra-modern technology. In addition to allowing me to stay connected to OM staff, my trusty iPad allows me to participate in training webinars, other museums’ COVID at home activities, a second or third screen for Ancestry searches, and so much more. A final benefit is during off work hours – apps that take my mind off things. I love a good crossword or word search app. I once completed a 10,000-word, word search challenge! Other favourites are “Anti Stress” and Garden or Homescapes. Truly mind numbing.

My final and favourite way of coping with the stress and anxiety of the past year has been yoga. I have been practicing yoga for well over a decade now and am certain that my mental health would have suffered much more during the last year if it were not for this. The studio I usually practice at is in Ajax, and I got there as often as I could, but it wasn’t as often as I’d have liked. A major benefit for me was my studio switching to livestream classes from the instructors’ homes. (See, everyone is working from home!) Not only could I take a break from work, now I could practice with instructors whose classes I hadn’t normally been able to take! I have been welcomed even more into their yoga community that I ever imagined, and that I truly value.

Knowing I have it in myself to control my breathing and mindset to get through a particularly tough day is comforting, which I think is the key to my sanity during these COVID times – comfort. I seek comfort in all of these things I’ve mentioned and hopefully if you are looking for something similar, trying one or all of them will help you too.

Archiving a Pandemic

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

Although the Oshawa Museum, along with other cultural organizations, is temporarily closed to help alleviate the spread of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean staff are idle. We continue to work behind the scenes to present content and ensure the safety of the museum collection.  One of our new initiatives was to join with archives on an international, national, provincial and local level who are developing platforms to document the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their communities.

For the Oshawa Museum that means documenting the impact of COVID-19 on the Oshawa community. To do this we are utilizing several resources to capture day to day life in Oshawa through these unprecedented times.  We are collaborating with Empty Cup Media to produce an oral history project collecting videos and interviews with the citizens of Oshawa as they experience daily life during a pandemic.  All official municipal communications concerning COVID-19 in Oshawa are collected as well as local media reports.  Museum staff will also be sharing insights on how COVID-19 is impacting the Oshawa Museum: changes to museum operations, the impact on collections and staff, and the importance of ensuring that this time in history is documented and preserved for future generations.

Probably the most important component of the project will be to tell the stories of how Oshawa residents, businesses and organizations are coping with the pandemic.  Have you had to close your business?  How are you and your family coping with self isolation?  We want to collect your thoughts, photographs, diaries and other items that tell the story of how you are coping in these times.  “I hope the community is journaling through this time,” says Jennifer Weymark Archivist for the Oshawa Museum. “In 10, 50 or even 100 years from now, these journals will become the personal voices of the pandemic.”  Much like diaries kept during the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 have helped people understand its impact, Weymark feels journals kept during the current pandemic will help future generations understand this period in history.  “I am hoping residents will donate their writings to the Oshawa Museum once this is over,” says Weymark. “I plan on archiving the material once this is done as a way to document Oshawa during this time.”

There are several ways you can contribute. If you are interested  in being interviewed about your experiences living through COVID-19 contact Colin at Empty Cup Media (colin@emptycupmedia.ca). Keep a diary and write down your daily habits or record how things have changed. Donate your diary to the archives to help us preserve what life was like in 2020. Contact Jennifer Weymark, Archivist, to explore other ways you can help us document history as it unfolds in real time: archivist@oshawamuseum.org. Finally, you can visit our newest online exhibit, covid19oshawa.com.


This article was originally written for Metroland Media.