About the Exhibition
During the past century, Winnipeg has confronted both the Spanish Influenza of 1918 and COVID-19 – two pandemics with strangely similar features. These outbreaks involved quarantines, masking and multiple waves of infection. Protests and misinformation stoked public fears as governments struggled to contain the spread. Health professionals, front line workers and volunteers tried to save lives and local businesses. This exhibition explores our community’s response in perilous times and poses the question – will we be better prepared if another pandemic hits?
Heritage Winnipeg: Building a Better City
Buildings witness history as much as they are shaped by it. They tell the story of who we were, who we are and where we are going. They give us reassurance that we have lived through the highs and lows of the past and guide us moving forward, adapting to new challenges. As COVID-19 arrived in Winnipeg in 2020, our heritage buildings reminded us that this is not the first pandemic to run rampant through our city. The chronicles of Spanish Influenza from over a century ago are captured in brick, stone and wood – in the hospitals that filled up, the gathering spaces that fell silent, the buildings that were repurposed, the homes that people returned to and never left for days on end. When that pandemic finally receded, Winnipeg’s building’s were vibrant once again, with people eager to return to a sense of normalcy.
Struggling with lockdowns and loss caused by this contemporary pandemic, watching the downtown turned into a ghost town as all the positive momentum building in our city suddenly fizzled out. It is our heritage buildings that reassure us that we will persevere. Plans might have to change, alterations will be made, and timelines adjusted, but in the end Winnipeg is a resilient city where the hearts are warm. Our buildings, new and old, will record our struggles, our grief, our persistence, and our celebrations and ready to tell the story of yet another pandemic to anyone willing to take the time to listen. Heritage Winnipeg is honoured to give those buildings a voice, to tell this important story of our community.