Items sitting on a work table in the vault at the State Historical Museum may help future generations learn about the pandemic.
The State Historical Museum collects all stories of Iowa history, knowing from our experience that this is a historic time that we’ve been in over the last two years and thinking back to other times that Iowa has been challenged with a health crisis,” museum curator Leo Landis says.
According to Landis, museum staff who put together a World War II in 2016 realized at the start of the pandemic they needed to start a collection. That’s because more than 700 soldiers at Camp Dodge died of the Spanish Flu in 2018, but there’s little in vault to visually illustrate what happened.
“Just thought to ourselves: ‘Wouldn’t it have been great to have a mask from 1918, from the flu pandemic?’ We don’t have that, so as we were moving through the Covid pandemic, we knew we needed to collect.”
The Humboldt County Hospital has donated materials, including personal protective equipment, and the University of Iowa has provided a vial of each of the three vaccines. Landis says that was a priority, because the museum vault does not have a vial of the groundbreaking polio vaccine.
“The promise of a vaccine was so big and, in fact, Sioux City is one of the first communities to get one of the first trials of vaccines as they had an outbreak in the 1950s,” Landis says, “so there’s an Iowa story connected to the national polio vaccine efforts.”
The Covid vaccine vials sitting in the museum’s vault may, in the future, help illustrate the story of the University of Iowa’s participation in the large scale, international clinical trial of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine.