A newly launched digital exhibit explores the similarities in Utah during the 1918 flu pandemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“The thing that surprised me the most was the interventions that worked 100 years ago are still being used today. We’ve had 100 years of technology development and have increased awareness with how viruses work, yet we’re still using the same basic tools," Logan Mitchell said.
Mitchell is an assistant professor in atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah. He said he stumbled upon newspaper clippings from 1918 while doing research about air quality in the state.
“I started looking for articles about the spanish flu, and I found all of these interesting articles. It was fascinating to see the parallels with what’s happening today," he said.
These findings developed into the Marriott Library 1918 Flu Pandemic in Utah exhibit which features photographs, newspaper articles, and a timeline of the spanish influenza. The exhibit is specific to the experiences and situations of Utahns during that time.
Rachel Wittman is the digital curation librarian at the library and helped put together the digital exhibit.
“I think the first headline you read is from September 20th of 1918 and it’s ‘Beware of the Kiss! Germs of Deadly Spanish Influenza Spread by Osculatory Performance’, which is pretty hysterical," she said.
Wittman said the exhibit makes it easy to relate to Utahns in 1918 and to know that mask wearing, social distance practices, and uneasiness because of a virus are all things that have been experienced before.