Clothing the Pandemic, Guelph-style

The photograph depicts the "Canadiana/Begging Bear" sculpture that stands on the front lawn of the Art Gallery of Guelph building, on Gordon Street at College Avenue. The bear is dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and a face mask.

Banner Image: Colour photograph (digital file) titled “Protected Bear” taken by Dave Waters, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major moment in history. To preserve our community’s experiences during this time, we collected local stories and objects representing truths about Guelph life during the pandemic.

One object has come to symbolize the COVID-19 pandemic: the humble mask. Inspired by ICOM Costume’s digital exhibition, “Clothing the Pandemic: A Virtual Exhibition of COVID-19 Face Masks from Around the World,” we share with you some of the masks we have collected locally.

Face Mask, Guelph Mask Kit Squad, COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020

Cloth face mask made by the Guelph Mask Kit Squad during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020. The mask is made from cotton, printed with a pink, cream and blue floral pattern. There are two white elastic ear loops.

The Guelph Mask Kit Squad is a Facebook-based group founded by Ricki Bristow and including over 150 participants who worked to sew more than 19,220 masks. The masks were donated to community organizations, hospitals, senior homes and day cares. The group made all of the masks from community-donated fabric.

Face Mask, McLean Family, COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020

Homemade face mask made by Sharon and Cyndy McLean. The mask is cloth with four pleats in green and pink floral-patterned fabric on the front, and a solid green backing. Two white elastic ear loops allow mask to be secured to face.

Each mask came with a note reading: ”This is a homemade mask made with concern for your well being. This is NOT a certified N95 or surgical mask.” The note also included detailed wearing instructions.

Face Mask, McLean Family, COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020

Handmade child-sized face mask created by Alyssa Boutilier. The mask is made from cotton, printed with a digital camouflage pattern in grey, blue and green. It has two ear loops made from black elastic.

Alyssa Boutilier began making fabric face masks for family and friends in April 2020. Shortly after posting about it on Facebook, people around the province began requesting masks. She would work on the masks at night. Alyssa also made nurse’s caps for frontline healthcare workers.

Face Mask, Tyler McMullen, April 2020

Handmade face mask worn by Tyler McMullen, a Purolator courier, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic (April to mid-July 2020). He wore this mask until Purolator procured commercial masks for employees. This white cotton mask with four ties was made by Tyler’s cousin, Caitlynn McMullen.

Tyler began working for Purolator in 2011. The pandemic caused a dramatic shift in the usual Spring delivery patterns. As many people transitioned to working from home, Tyler delivered packages of office equipment and computers to residential homes. The volume of deliveries dramatically increased as people shifted to online shopping. Tyler and other couriers were “busier than Christmas” throughout April to mid-August 2020.

Face Mask, Justin Reid, RealTalk, Black Lives Matter Solidarity March and Protest, 2020

Custom face mask made by RealTalk Clothing and worn by Justin Reid at the Black Lives Matter Solidarity March and Protest held in downtown Guelph on 6 June 2020. The mask is black fabric with fabric ear loops. “I Can’t Breathe” is printed in white block letters and “RealTalk” is printed below.

RealTalk Clothing Company is a Black fashion designer based in Toronto. Justin Reid contacted RealTalk Clothing to design a custom mask that he could wear during the Black Lives Matter Solidarity March and Protest.

Posted by Dawn Owen on February 23, 2022

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