Epidemics in Denmark

The tour Epidemics in Denmark is based on the exhibition Corona will also be history one day. The tour puts the present corona pandemic into perspective through the major disease outbreaks in Danish history.



Practical information
Duration: tour 45 minutes
Number of participants: Max 30 per tour
Price: 750 kr. Entrance to the museum is included in the price


Book tour here

About the tour

Based on the exhibition Corona will also be history one day, this tour gives the students insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic is reflected in historical epidemics. Diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, plague and cholera have made world history, just like COVID-19, creating massive upheavals for the individual as well as society. This tour makes comparisons across epidemics and explore differences and similarities in the handling and consequences of different diseases.

The students will encounter objects, which they know from their own life during the COVID-19-pandemic. They can, among other things, see Magnus Heunicke’s famous curve, the first vaccines against COVID-19 and a whole days consumption of rubber gloves from a test center.

The students will also get close to objects from historical disease outbreaks. They can experience a tombstone, which illustrates, how diphtheria killed five siblings within a few days in 1903, a face mask used by nursing staff during the Spanish Flu in the 20th century and a respirator, which has secured the patients oxygen and survival in the 1950s polio epidemic.



Corona self-portrait
The tour provides new perspectives on our recent experiences with COVID-19 and offers an opportunity to look back on what happened. This is the departure point for the assignment “My COVID-19 self-portrait”, which is available for school groups after the tour. Bring the assignment back to the classroom as a completion of the visit to the museum.

Corona in curves
March 10, 2020, a press conference was held in the Danish government. Here, they bode initiatives to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Denmark. Minister of Health, Magnus Heunicke, showed a curve on the press conference with a red and a green curve. The two curves illustrated two possible scenarios for the development of the disease. Today, the graph is a part of the tour and the inspirational source for the task, where students have to turn their own experiences into curves in a personal corona portrait.

When the exhibition opened, we hoped that corona was soon to be history. Time rolls on, and today, it might feel like corona is already history, or at least well under way. Perhaps especially so for contemporary students and youth. The corona self portrait invites the students to pause and, for a brief moment, return to the pandemic to draw a self portrait of who they were and became. Which intimate imprints did the historical event put in the lives and memories of the youth?

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Learning outcomes

Use the tour and assignment your teaching
The tour and assignment can be part of the teaching in many subjects (biology, history, social science, psychology and interdisciplinary projects). The possibilities are many. Below, you will find some examples of specific subjects.

Before you visit the museum
You can have a look at the museum’s digital exhibition Life Support, which were conceived during the first lockdown during the spring of 2020. You can also watch the movie Flatten the curve, which Medical Museion produced during lockdown.

Teaching history
Epidemics and other major disease outbreaks are often a driving force behing societal change. An epidemic exposes existing structural differences in society. As such, the tour can be part of teaching major societal upheavals and living conditions.

The exhibition presents a long row of sources for the major diseases of history. We exhibit both physical objects, archival material, digital sources and photos. In the concluding task, following the tour, the students themselves will be activated as sources on the history of the corona pandemic in Denmark. The tour and task is a possibility to reflect on who and what that compose the sources for our a shared history. It also focuses on the students’ own consciousness of history and themselves as co-creators of history.

Teaching social science
When an epidemic hits a society, it puts the whole system to the test. All layers of society become activated and must cooperate effectively to fight the disease. That requires political changes, new governmental methods and new orders, restrictions, and recommendations for the individual citizen. Major diseases outbreaks shed light on the cohesive force of a society and on the possibilities and abilities of politicians, institutions and citizens to exert influence on the situation. The relationship between state, government and citizens may be put to the test as new measures start discussions on what is more important: the freedom of the individual or societal interests? The tour shows examples of measures from both politicians, authorities and restrictions for the individual. These are reflected in historical examples: the effort for developing vaccines during corona is e.g. compared to the mass vaccination against smallpox in 1810 and next to badges with corona restrictions, campaign from the 20th century is shown, aiming to teach the population not to spit on the sidewalk.

Diseases do not respect or municipalities, regions, national borders or continents. In a closely connected world, disease can spread as easily as news or inventions. Therefore, the local disease outbreak or national epidemic can develop into a pandemic within a short timespan. We experienced this firsthand during corona, where we apart from news from Denmark, also received news on the ravaging of the disease in Bergamo, Italy, in New York and in Brazil. Combating disease makes demands on how societies act on both local and global scenes and how different local strategies position citizens differently around the world, but also how local measures inevitably affects and are connected to the surrounding world.

Teaching biology
It is important for an epidemic, which disease is ravaging. Is it a bacterium or a virus? Is it resistant? Does it mutate like crazy? Are treatments or vaccines available to fight it? Or is it completely new – a blank page without precedent?

The tour shows examples from different situations in history, where these conditions have been different. From fighting smallpox-virus in the 19th century, where a vaccine secured lifelong immunity, to fighting the tuberculosis-bacterium after WWII, where both treatment and vaccinations were available to the fight against the HIV-virus in the 1980s, where the virus mutated so quickly that is has still not been possible to develop a vaccine and COVID-10, where a new type of vaccine was developed at record speed.