History in the making as Czech museum opens face mask exhibition

Workers prepare a face mask exhibition at the National Museum amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Prague, Czech Republic, May 21, 2020. REUTERS/David W Cerny

In a sign that the coronavirus will one day be history, the Czech National Museum is opening an exhibition of face masks worn to protect against the infection.

The Czech government was one of the first to make it compulsory to wear a mask outside the home. With 8,725 cases and 304 deaths so far, the country has been less badly affected than some in Europe, although opinions differ on what difference masks have made.

When the crisis began, industrially made masks were in short supply, which prompted a nationwide effort to make them at home.

“There is a huge amount of products today, it is tough to say what should be left for future generations. With masks, it is clear cut, they are a symbol of the situation,” said curator Mira Burianova.

The small exhibit in the National Museum in Prague’s Wenceslas Square was selected from hundreds of masks sent in by the public. They include folk motifs, fun designs, and the national flag. There is one made by children with autism.

“I work in healthcare and what caught my interest the most was that when we had nothing at all in the hospital, the whole nation rose up and sewed masks in a couple of days. People have to help each other,” said Ludmila Brazdova from Brno.

The exhibition opens on Monday, just as the government relaxes its mask policy. People will no longer have to wear them outdoors but must still do so on public transport and in public buildings – including the museum.

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