New Grimsby Museum exhibit sheds light on 1918 Spanish flu pandemic

A new exhibit at the Grimsby Museum examines the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, one of the most devastating epidemics in human history.

Through text panels, photographs and original artifacts, the Grimsby Museum aims to teach visitors about responses to the 1918 pandemic.

Although the exhibit was planned before COVID-19, the topic has taken on a new and profound relevance, and visitors will see similarities between responses to the two diseases.

In Canada, around 55,000 people died from the 1918 Spanish flu, and Grimsby was not spared.

Research by Janet Cannon, the former curator of the Grimsby Museum, found that 18 flu deaths were reported in 1918.

Museum director Janet Oakes said there are many parallels between the Spanish flu pandemic and the COVID-19 outbreak.

For example, when the flu hit Grimsby, all non-essential services were closed, including schools and churches.

Various conspiracy theories and alternative therapies have been touted across Canada, including the promotion of menthol cigarettes and light therapies to help fight infection.

Canadians were also required to wear masks during the 1918 epidemic, although Oakes pointed out that the consequences of non-compliance were much more serious.

“If you didn’t wear a mask, you would go to jail,” she said.

Artifacts in the museum include a sick bed and crates of medicine that were used to help treat infected people.

Children will have a fun learning experience with various interactive exhibits, including a glitter activity that shows how germs are spread and an opportunity to make their own germ.

The exhibit is funded in part by the Government of Canada and runs until May 5.

Admission is by donation.

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