The Storytelling Chairs

Seven wooden storytelling chairs sit at the heart of the COVID in the House of Old exhibit, speaking to seven lives indelibly altered by the pandemic’s spread through long-term care. Each individual represented by a chair stands in place for hundreds or thousands of Canadians who faced similar circumstances.

The chairs’ audios were culled from a series of interviews conducted over the fall of 2021. Daughters, sons, and grandchildren told tales of devastating loss. Survivor residents spoke of painful separation. Workers described confusion, exhaustion and terrible stress. 

Yet the people profiled here are much more than casualties of history. Their stories are also about aspiration, accomplishment, enthusiasms, good times, bravery and deep personal connection. A representational object is mounted on the back of each chair, while paper “Valentine” acknowledgements, lovingly created by family, friends and project researchers, rest on each seat.

The final exhibit chair is held by the Wikwemikong Nursing Home on Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in Northern Ontario. In June 2022, this important – and beloved – community facility celebrated 50 years of service.