News and Events

College project to preserve pandemic experiences

Illustration of man walking a dog near Saamis Teepee
June 24, 2020

Medicine Hat College (MHC) has created an outlet for our community to share personal experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Medicine Hat COVID Experiences website serves as an archive, a place for residents of Medicine Hat to submit artifacts of life as of late – photos, voice memos, videos, stories, and poetry – that they’ve collected throughout the pandemic to be preserved for historical record.

Jason Openo, director of teaching and learning at MHC, explains that the project emerged from the disruption caused by COVID-19 that denied MHC’s Art and Design students to complete their required work-terms in traditional fashion. It also recognized an opportunity to crowdsource a sense of how people’s lives have been affected and what has happened in our community over the past several months.

“COVID has been a deeply personal experience for many, in large part due to self-isolation, social distancing, and being unable to connect with one another in the way we once knew. It has changed the way we work, shop, learn, interact with family and friends, and go about our everyday life, so we saw this as an opportunity for us to think about what a collective experience looks like for Medicine Hat.”

For MHC, the project is a representation of the true meaning of being a comprehensive community college, while communicating what resilience looks like.

“Many libraries and institutions have been collecting and creating archives of stories of the pandemic and our intention was to adapt the idea to reflect a community college experience. We are a permeable institution, people come to us and we share things with them. MHC is of the community and this project acts as a way for us to show what this place means to us,” says Openo.

Openo believes that a time will come when people will want, and perhaps need to look back at this experience, because we have dealt with it so immediately.

“So many of us have had to just get on with our lives despite rapid change, disruption of routine, job loss, illness and losing loved ones. I don’t know if we’ve had the chance to take a step back and think of what this means to us, the impact it’s had, and how it’s changed the way we see the world, experience community, and the way we need one another.”

For Sierra Zukowski, an Art and Design graduate and creator of the website, inspiration came from the sidewalk chalk art that began popping up in many communities throughout the city.

“I wanted to take a lighter approach than other COVID related communications. I was inspired by the sidewalk chalk art of encouraging messages, as the activity itself was something creative for kids to do outside during this time of staying at home. My vision for the site was to have a welcoming, positive feel, with a direct connection to a relevant, shared experience of the pandemic,” explains Zukowski.

“This is an opportunity for people to share examples of symbolism, creative and adaptive ideas, good deeds and acts of kindness they witnessed. We want to bring people together throughout this time of separation in a way we can, because we truly don’t know when the world will return back to normal.”

Residents of Medicine Hat can share their experiences by submitting photos, voice memos, videos, stories, and poetry – anything that can be posted online – at www.medicinehatcovidexperiences.ca.


Submissions will be loosely moderated and reviewed. MHC is looking for artifacts of personal experiences, whereas opinions about COVID or politics related to COVID will not be posted.