Zeeland Historical Museum

Photograph courtesy of the Zeeland Historical Museum

In an effort to educate the public on an outbreak from another time, Zeeland Historical Museum has launched a new exhibit.

Titled, “Outbreak 1918-1920: The Zeeland Record Reports,” the exhibit tells the story of Zeeland’s experience of the influenza pandemic that killed 50 million people around the world.

The exhibit draws direct lines to today’s COVID-19 pandemic, including the use of masks, mandates on social gatherings and public unrest.

“Not here in Zeeland, but in Michigan and around the nation, there were mandates for mask wearing,” said employee Audrey Rojo. “But the masks in those days were made out of gauze, so they were actually really ineffective.

“People were told, if they had to cough or sneeze, to use a handkerchief and then boil them to sanitize them. There were bans on public gatherings, schools were closed, churches were closed.”

Zeeland residents also suffered from the inability to hold traditional funerals — though not for social-distancing reasons.

“At the time, they thought a dead body could spread the virus,” Rojo said. “So, a lot of people were cremated. That was really hard on the Zeelanders because it was, and still is, a very religious community.”

Read the full article here.

You may also like...