New museum exhibit in Madison highlights history of epidemics in the United States
The past and present of epidemics in the United States are coming together in a new museum exhibit in Madison.
The Museum of Early Trades and Crafts has been working on the exhibit for more than a year and couldn't have predicted what happened in March when COVID-19 hit.
The scope of the long-planned exhibit on how contagious illnesses going back as far as the 1700s have impacted New Jersey had to change once COVID hit. Museum officials assembled from their collections and other sources historical medical equipment, archival documents, photographs and even someone's diary from times of epidemics in the past.
"This is how people were living with those epidemics and pandemics, and this is how medical practice was done in the 18th and 19th centuries," says Deborah Farrar Starker, executive director of the museum.
Shelley Cathcart curated the exhibit "Cholera to COVID-19," which looks back on how some of the deadliest outbreaks affected life in New Jersey.
"Your life today while it's very different isn't so different," says Cathcart. "We still have the same hopes and dreams, and you still deal with some of those issues we're dealing with now."
Present day stories submitted by individuals coping with the current pandemic are included in the exhibit. The feelings of loss and uncertainty are strikingly similar to those some 200 years earlier.