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New exhibition documents frontline stories of pandemic’s long-term care crises

January 13, 2022

During her tenure as SFU Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellow, York University professor Megan J. Davies has researched and created a poignant public commemoration and informative documentation of the national crisis in long-term care.

COVID in the House of Old has both a virtual and physical presence: a website with several multimedia pieces, including a podcast and educational resources—which launches with a virtual dialogue on January 14  at 1 pm (PST) as well as a public installation, to be installed at Kwantlen Polytechnic University this Spring 2022.

The scalable travelling exhibit features seven wooden storytelling chairs that physically represent stories of lives indelibly altered by the pandemic’s spread through long-term care. Each chair/storyteller stands in place for hundreds or thousands of Canadians who faced similar circumstances.     

“Stories hold so much power,” says Davies. “This project employs story-telling methods typically used by oral historians to present an important issue of our time. I followed practices that I developed with colleagues at Madness Canada, which are about giving voice, making space, and emergent design.”

Excerpts from Davies interviews narrate a national humanitarian crisis and trace the fault lines that COVID-19 has revealed in long term care.

It was unimaginable to me I couldn't access my father. I knew that he must be suffering alone in that dark room by himself and not understanding the chaos that was going around him. If only I knew that he somehow understood we were trying to get to him - Caroline, daughter

I think that's why I had that anxiety attack; it came back up. Remembering being isolated in the residential school and being isolated here. I've never really talked about it to anybody. Now they have a lifeline you can phone. I mean, most of us don't end up in tears, which I do - Karen Ann, resident

When COVID came in they told the relatives not to come. Remember the residents, some you know still have their mind, they still know, they got frustrated. They’re not seeing their relatives. So they’re ever angry. They’re ever acting up - Esther, care attendant

Everything of her love came from her hands. The food that she made. The clothes that she sewed… Sitting on the sofa watching TV, we would grab her hand and hold on to it, and she would give a squeeze.  

- Bernadette & Antoinette, granddaughters

In addition to these oral histories, Davies’ project features Toronto-based musician, Hiroki Tanaka’s “Elegy for Long Term Care Homes, 2020-2021," an audio-visual representation of lives lost to COVID-19 in BC and Ontario long-term care homes.  

At the virtual launch, which is being hosted via Zoom Webinar and will be recorded, Davies will speak with some of her collaborators including musician Hiroki Tanaka, family members of those in long-term care residents, as well as Isobel Mackenzie, BC’s Seniors Advocate, who will speak and take questions.

Join the virtual launch here:

Passcode: 533382


Dr. Megan J. Davies, Professor Social Science, York University, SFU Shadbolt Fellow in the Humanities. Email: daviesmj@yorku.ca or text 416-575-4253

You can also email Christine Lyons (Communications Officer, Faculty of Art and Social Sciences) or Ashley Tanasiychuck (Director of Marketing and Communications, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) at fasscomm@sfu.ca for information about the virtual launch and artist talk.

Further details about the virtual and travelling exhibition can be found at: